MMA's Dope Policies Rile Critics
Differing treatment for two fighters who used medical pot and testosterone causes controversy.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission is willing to lay the smackdown on medical marijuana in the MMA, but seems controversially lenient on testosterone injections. Fighter Chael Sonnen was let off after using testosterone before his title fight with Anderson Silva—but Nick Diaz' toking earns a one-year suspension and 30% of his fight money from his most recent bout ($60,000 from his $200,000 earnings), outraging critics. “If you think those decisions made the sport of mixed martial arts cleaner and/or safer,” writes Ben Fowlkes on MMA Fighting, “then I want to know where you got that prescription for whatever it is you’re smoking.” Questioned by the NSAC, Sonnen admitted using testosterone, but claims his trainer led him to believe it was allowed, and that he had no suspicions even when warned never to mention it. Sonnen's doctor says he suffers from low testosterone and that officials were able to test Sonnen after his fight—a point of contention for some experts, who say that “morning-after” tests for steroids “make little sense,” as the evidence would long-since have tapered off. Sonnen tested clean and was exonerated.
But Diaz didn't have it so easy with his MMJ use—even though it isn't exactly known as a performance enhancer. Rather than denying or deflecting, Diaz' lawyers argued against the NSAC's drug policies—and lost. "Effectively what they did,” says Diaz' attorney, “was punish him for legally consuming marijuana more than a week before the fight and then having an inactive component sequestered in his fat tissue after the fight." Diaz says medical marijuana helps him focus; his doctor prescribed it for ADHD. “If the sport isn’t harmed by allowing one athlete to artificially increase his levels of a powerful hormone,” writes Fowlkes, “how is it harmed by allowing another to use one of the least harmful recreational drugs around?” Diaz' attorneys are now seeking to change the ruling via a judicial review.