Home News UFC anti-doping policy changes stance on marijuana; positive test no longer violation

UFC anti-doping policy changes stance on marijuana; positive test no longer violation

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UFC anti-doping policy changes stance on marijuana; positive test no longer violation
ABU DHABI – The UFC’s anti-doping policy will no longer punish athletes for positive tests for carboxy-THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.
UFC and U.S. Anti-Doping Agency officials on Thursday announced significant modifications “in the handling of cannabis and its naturally occurring cannabinoid compounds.”
In short, positive tests for carboxy-THC, regardless of levels, will no longer be considered violations of the policy “unless additional evidence exists that an athlete used it intentionally for performance-enhancing purposes.”
“While we want to continue to prevent athletes from competing under the influence of marijuana, we have learned that blood and/or urine levels of carboxy-THC have a little-to-no scientific correlation to impairment,” UFC senior vice president of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky said in a statement. “THC is fat-soluble, meaning that once ingested, it is stored in fatty tissues and organs in the body and can be released back into the blood or urine, sometimes long after the ingestion.”
Novitzky said athletes will still not be allowed to compete under the influence of marijuana, but that the UFC and USADA will rely on visual evidence of impairment and cognitive behavioral tests to make such determinations rather than any sort of blood level detection, which can often indicate usage well outside of the competition window.
“The bottom line is that in regards to marijuana, we care about what an athlete consumed the day of a fight, not days or weeks before a fight, which has often been the case in our historic positive THC cases,” Novitzky said.
Novitzky said he believes the change in policy is simply the latest by the promotion to maintain anti-doping guidelines that are thorough but maintain a sense of fairness for the athletes who must abide by the policy, which was first instituted in 2015.
“Based on my informal discussion with athletes, there’s a significant percentage of athletes that choose to use marijuana, many for legitimate reasons outside of recreational,” Novitzky said. “Many use it for pain control, anti-anxiety, to sleep, in lieu of more dangerous, more addictive drugs, so hopefully this being the first step to opening that up so that an athlete on Wednesday night of fight week instead of going to a Vicodin because their knee hurts and they can’t sleep can use a little bit of cannabis and get to sleep and have that pain control. It has no affect whatsoever on a competition on Saturday night, so it’s the right move, and I’m really excited about this revision and that specific policy change.”
It is important to note that the change in USADA policy does not directly affect regulations by state athletic commissions, so athletes do not have carte blanche with marijuana use following the announcement. However, Novitzky is hopeful that the change to UFC policy can ultimately pave the way for similar moves at the state level.
“I would caution everybody to temper their enthusiasm about this because we still have the commission factor here, but we are actively working on that,” Novitzky told MMA Junkie. “We are educating, informing, lobbying them, and I hope not too far in the near future that we can get uniformity across all the rules as it relates to marijuana because I think it would certainly be a benefit to the athletes.”
Additional changes to the UFC’s anti-doping Policy announced include the removal of “Phyto” cannabinoids often found in various CBD products, as well as the addition of Informed Choice as an approved dietary supplement certifier for UFC athletes.
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