UFC, USADA Announce Change in Marijuana Policy, Allowing Positive Tests Without Violation

By: Jay Pettry
Jan 14, 2021

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The Ultimate Fighting Championship and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency are turning the corner on marijuana in the sport.

Per MMA Junkie on Thursday, the promotion and agency announced together that the marijuana policies in effect for the UFC athletes has changed drastically. As a result, fighters that test positive for marijuana, no matter the level or threshold the fighter reaches, will not be found in violation of the anti-doping policy. This new policy also applies to various substances found in CBD products. Instead, fighters will be evaluated for if they used the substance for “performance-enhancing purposes.”

This change will not impact commissions or federations that prohibit marijuana, and will only come into play when the UFC serves as its own regulatory body like in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Fighters that fail drug tests for marijuana in the U.S. will still be subject to the commissions’ rules, and it does not appear that there will be any ex post facto – or retroactive – rulings from the policy change.

In a statement acquired by MMA Junkie, UFC senior vice president of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky explained the reasoning for what many view to be a much-needed update.

“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.” He continued, “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.”

Based on USADA’s analysis of UFC fighter conduct and discussion, the use of marijuana has grown largely in the community as a way to handle combat-related ailments like pain and anxiety. Fighters cannot compete while impaired, but otherwise, will be allowed to partake.

“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 admitted. “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.”

Although this does not alter any commission regulations per se, the goal of this USADA policy change is to inform these commissions and eventually make this a uniform rule change.

“It has no affect [sic] 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,” Novitzky exclaimed. “I would caution everybody to temper their enthusiasm about this because we are still working on the commission factor here, but we are actively working on that. 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.”

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