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Up in Smoke: Circumventing CSAC’s Anti-Marijuana Policy

In pre-fight interviews, Nick Diaz, the highly-skilled Gracie jiu-jitsu black belt, and charismatic MMA athlete and personality, made it very clear he enjoyed smoking marijuana and, notwithstanding the California State Athletic Commission’s (“CSAC”) rules to the contrary, he planned to continue smoking in the weeks leading up to his main event bout with MMA legend Frank Shamrock.

Of course, we do not know whether Mr. Diaz made good on this promise. We do know of course that he kept his promise to defeat Frank Shamrock in dramatic fashion. He dominated Shamrock throughout the contest with a convincing display of skill, fitness, and cage savvy. (To think he accomplished this while battling a serious case of the munchies is perhaps even more heroic. That he did all of this several weeks after competing in a triathlon staggers the imagination.) He scored another victory several days after the fight when the CSAC’s Bill Douglas announced that Mr. Diaz’s drug tests came back negative.

As MMA fans, we need to ask ourselves if we care that Diaz apparently flagrantly violated the CSAC’s drug policy and got away with it rather easily. I do not know if anyone in the medical community would characterize marijuana as a performance-enhancing drug. Most of us would presume that, if anything, use of marijuana would detract from a fighter’s performance in the cage. So, the question becomes whether use of a drug like marijuana could or should result in a severe CSAC sanction for fighters not as skilled as Mr. Diaz in wriggling out of the CSAC’s seemingly feeble drug-testing protocol.

If the CSAC has chosen to prohibit marijuana use and: (1) a competitor boasts of his or her intention to violate the rule, then (2) he or she violates the rule; how much should we care – if at all?

On the MMA message boards, the consensus seems to be that Nick Diaz’s marijuana use is his business and he has to live with the consequences of getting snared. Most people argue that marijuana is not a performance-enhancing drug so, the argument goes, so what if Nick Diaz gets high with a little help from his friends. Even though this argument is compelling in its simplicity and laissez-faire approach, the whole incident raises too many important issues about drug use and drug testing to warrant such casual dismissal.

Perhaps most importantly, if the CSAC can’t successfully test for marijuana, which is supposed to be detectable for at least several days, if not weeks, after use, how successful is the CSAC, or any other state athletic commission, when it comes to substances that obviously enhance a fighter’s performance?

Professional mixed martial arts, by its nature, lends itself to the abuse of certain drugs that are known to expedite recovery time between bouts. These drugs sing an alluring siren’s song to hungry fighters eager to earn a living in this sport. If you are not fighting, you are not earning. The same drugs that have plagued baseball, football, and just about every professional sport one can name are certainly available to MMA athletes.

As a fan, I could not care less if Nick Diaz smokes a joint. He could smoke between rounds as far as I am concerned. As someone who cares deeply about the integrity of the game, however, I have to take my stand against flagrant rule violations of any kind. I have listened to the arguments for and against the legalization of marijuana and, frankly, that’s a discussion for another day and another media outlet. I am not a prude and I enjoy my vices as much as the next guy. Many weekends, you will find me enjoying a nice cigar and a fine single malt with my fellow MMA enthusiasts talking about the fight game, our wives and kids, and Dana White’s eloquent video blogs. Joe Rogan, who, in my opinion, is the best MMA commentator in the business, certainly makes no secret of his marijuana smoking.  One of my new favorite pastimes is following Joe Rogan on Twitter and you only need to read a few of his posts to know that his computer screen is shrouded in smoke. I think I caught a contact high over my cable modem. Eddie Bravo is almost certainly stoned right now – in rubber guard.

Of course, we are not professional athletes and neither the CSAC nor any other sports regulating body will ever care what we are up to in the privacy of our own homes or down at the local sports bar. If we are willing to turn a blind eye to marijuana use, how many of us would be willing to take it one step further and just resign ourselves to the prevalence of drug abuse in sports? It’s a slippery slope.

Nick Diaz has chosen to fight as his profession and he is clearly an exceptional fighter. By his participation in MMA, however, he has agreed to abide by the rules of the sport and that includes the rules of the various state athletic commissions where he fights. If the CSAC rules that fighters had to wear white mouthguards and Diaz checked in with a black one, clearly his violation of the rule, no matter how arbitrary the rule might be, would result in some kind of sanction. So far, the CSAC has not expressed any interest in pursuing Mr. Diaz’s claim that he would not cease his marijuana use. All I have seen reported is that the spokesperson for the CSAC simply stated that Diaz’s test was “fine.”

If Nick Diaz was true to his word and I have no reason to believe he was not, then things are certainly not “fine” in the controversial world of drug testing athletes – and let us be clear – this is a nationwide problem.  Things are pretty far from “fine” when a fighter tells the regulatory body in charge of administering his drug test exactly which drug he will be using and how he plans on beating the test.

The CSAC either needs to scrap its prohibition against marijuana use or it needs to figure out a way to accurately and decisively test for banned drugs.  In the meantime, the CSAC should speak with Nick Diaz’s representatives about his statements in conjunction with the appropriate California officials. It would be nice if Mr. Diaz apologized to Scott Coker and Strikeforce for jeopardizing Mr. Coker’s business operations. But you would have to be smoking something strong to think that will happen.

  • RoadsideGraphix says:

    Good read.

    Being a member of and a pro-cannabis supporter, I think that marijuana is barely an issue.
    California was one of the first states to allow marijuana use on a social level, so the CSAC is a little behind the times.

    Knowing some of the facts about cannabis could easily tell how Diaz can pass his test on as little as 2 days notice. Its all about body fat and Diaz doesnt have much of that…

    “The CSAC either needs to scrap its prohibition against marijuana use or it needs to figure out a way to accurately and decisively test for banned drugs.”

    Thats the bottom line… Well said

  • madiq says:

    I’m pretty sure the prohibition in CSAC Rule 303 only extends to the time of licensure, and at or around the time of competition. As you recall, Nick previously submitted paperwork disclosing his prescription for medical marijuana, so all that is required is that he submits clean urine samples, and does not run afoul of the anti-doping provisions. “Off-season” marijuana use is not prohibited.

  • VENOM says:

    It’s always 4:20 at the Diaz house! :-)

  • TheLevi75 says:

    if he passed his test.

  • MMASwami says:

    Diaz is just as big a cheater as people that use steroids leading up to a fight. Same crime, just different drugs.

  • Astrid says:

    My main concern would be that Diaz would have been able to put up with a lot more physical pain than the sober Shamrock, if he was indeed smoking pot. This would, however, only be the case if he in fact smoked a joint shortly before the fight as the effects wear off rather quickly. That said, I don’t see much harm in any fighter smoking pot in between professional fights as long as it is not immediately prior to the event. Marijuana is NOT a performance enhancing drug after all. But I do believe that professional athletes should be drug free at all times.

  • TheLevi75 says:


    How is he cheating?

  • Angry Mike says:

    Laphroaig and an El Rey del Mundo in a maduro wrapper, preferably with a 52″ ring. Leave the weed to the kids.

  • crosshearttat says:

    I think that Gary Wimsett, the author of this article, has completely missed the point of this situation; Nick Diaz is a MEDICAL MARIJUANA PATIENT. That is the reason he kept stating that he doesn;t care and the CSAC is a STATE BASED governing body which means that even though Federal Law has problems with medical marijuana laws, the CSAC HAS to allow Diaz to smoke weed because of Proposition 215 in California which states “no patient may be denied any medicine prescribed by their physician”. “or prosecuted” As a STATE based organization, just like local police or sheriffs, they cannot prosecute or deny you medicines, such as marijuana, that you can legally use.

    As a patient myself, I hold on to my rights as a citizen of this country and am pursuing a career in MMA while smoking my medicine to relieve migranes caused by a roll over accident and 13 staples in my head. The one thing for certain is that the CSAC and the United States as a whole, have to figure out set rules for marijuana, while protecting the rights of patients that people have voted on. So the real arguement and basis for this story should have been “can Nick Diaz consume his medicine with out fear of being prosecuted by the CSAC”?

  • optimus828 says:

    I’m a little curious with an athlete of his caliber, how long thc actually remains in his system. The up to 30 day rule would apply to the average joe… but running triathlons and training however many hours per day makes for a very powerful metabolism. I bet with hard training, heavy fluid intake, and some sauna time he could test clean after 4-5 days.

    idk how they do the testing, so idk if he could have scored some clean p from somebody else either… marijuana does not enhance performance w\ any type of sport though.

  • CMT says:

    It is impressive that he can smoke and still cut weight!!!

  • Bullylover says:

    While i’m a Diaz fan and a fellow Stocktonian I do agree that he should’n’t be publicizing the fact that he is smoking weed up to the fight and stating how he’s going to beat the test; but he is from stockton and we just don’t give a fuck. Anybody who smokes weed knows that Weed will definately make you lose motivition if you smoke it all day evryday. The fact that Diaz is as good as he is and smoking weed all the time is a miracle in it’s self. Personally I feel that the Csac should just allow the use of marijuana , but then again I’m not a pro athlete, sprots sanctioner ,etc. Whatever happens i’ll stay.

  • Josh says:

    The DEA is no longer involved with medical marijuana. Obama made ’em chill out on that. What a fighter does is his personal business. Who is the csac to try to be moral police to these fighters. Marijuana has fantastic benefits and is far safer than alcohol. If marijuana were legal in all states, harmful drugs like xanex, valium, prozac, lexipro, etc.. would be unnecessary. What do they gain by testing for this?

  • MMA-LOGIC says:

    I’m sure I saw Diaz’s corner man smearing weed resin all over his back in between rounds and trying to pretend it is some sort of breathing technique.

  • kidneybeans says:

    Everything else aside, why did the author of this article have to characterize Diaz’s ability to fight and train while consuming cannabis as some kind of miracle? As if smoking pot and being physically active are somehow mutually exclusive. I understand the stereotypes that go with cannabis users, we are thought of as lazy and stupid with no motivation for anything other than smoking more pot. But when one of us clearly destroys that stereotype, why continue to perpetuate it by bringing it up.

    As far as the topic of the article goes I understand the concern for flagrant violations of the rules, I guess I just think the problem is with the rule rather than the fighter.

    And all that being said I find it important to note that I personally cannot stand Nick Diaz or his brother. But my haterd for him stems from his, I’m a badass attitude not his affinity for cannabis. In my eyes he’s a bad representative for the sport of mma and respectable cannabis enthusiasts everyhwere.

  • screwface says:

    what crosshearttat said. that is the main point. its the law in cali and where diaz resides and where the fight took place. if he passed his csac drug test, then anything else is meaningless. least diaz has the balls to be honest. u have no idea how many mma fighters and atheletes do the same but keep it on the low. after a hard workout its a good natural way to relax compared to “legal” prescriptions and relaxers others abuse.

  • mu_shin says:

    I have years of personal experience with circumventing invasive and unwarranted drug testing. I can attest from that experience that avoiding a postitive finding for marijuana as determined by urine testing can be as simple as ultrahydration; simply put, drink a gallon or so of water in the hours preceding the test and your results will come up clean. In over five years of being tested reqularly, once I had an “inconclusive” result, all the rest of the tests resulted in negative results.

    Medically, cannabis cannot be demonstrated in any aspect to be performance enhancing. As such, there is no good scientific or medical reason for MMA fighters to be tested for marijuana at any time, for any reason.

    That said, if testing is to be the law of the land, then spend the extra money, and blood test all athletes. The results are clinically more accurate, and there is no protocol I’m aware of short of bribery of lab personnel and commission officials that can alter a blood test. There are good reasons to test for performance enhancing drugs like steroids and growth hormone, to assure fairness and safeguard the health and well being of the athletes, but wasting money on urine testing fighters for marijuana serves no good purpose.


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