On Thursday, the UFC and U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) announced that it would no longer punish athletes for positive cannabis tests. Positive tests will no longer be considered a violation to the policy “unless additional evidence exists that an athlete used it intentionally for performance-enhancing purposes.”
What the UFC is saying about marijuana use
UFC senior vice president of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky said, “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 little-to-no scientific correlation to impairment. 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 ingestion.”
Since THC can last in the body for days after ingestion, Novtizky said there is no scientific evidence that THC found in blood or urine samples cause impairment during a fight. The effects from THC last for hours, not days, he says.
“Why the hell do we care what someone did a week before, let alone a night before, when it doesn’t have any effect on their ability to fight,” Novitzky said.
He added that UFC competitors would not be allowed to fight under the influence of marijuana, but the UFC and USADA will be monitoring visual impairment and cognitive behavioral tests to determine if an athlete is suitable to compete.
“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.
UFC athletes use cannabis for legitimate reasons
“Based on my informal discussion with athletes, there’s a significant number of 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.”