Editorial Spotlight: The Training While Smoking Weed Debate From Someone Who Does Both
By: George C. Mathews
For the past few days, Nick Diaz and Carlos Condit have been the most talked about topics amongst MMA fans. Between the fans on Twitter, the endless amounts of message board threads, or just people sitting around the gym, last weekends fight has left fans with a lot to debate about. I’m not sure if it was the decision itself, or that fans were let down because expectations were so high, but the chatter has been non stop. Regardless, over the past 24 hours, the hot topic has remained the same, although the focal point has moved solely to Nick Diaz. Though not for the fact that he would be getting another chance at UFC gold, but because of his second drug test failure in the state of Nevada.
With this being his second offense, he’s probably looking at a 12 month suspension, some fines, a bunch of paperwork, and a whole lot of inconvenience. The indirect impact is that he won’t be getting paid, not to fight at least, and for a high level athlete in his prime, losing precious time is a big blow. Now with that said, I’m all for playing by the rules, but is a rule for a drug like marijuana really even necessary?
As someone who also trains a lot (I train jiu jitsu alone 7-8 times a week along with 2-3 strength and conditioning sessions), I’ve never really understood why marijuana was grouped in with the other banned substances. Over the years, in many of the various gyms I’ve traveled to, I’ve been offered and seen people do all sorts of drugs in front me, or at least admitted to what they’re taking. Most notably HGH, steroids, or pot, but I can honestly say that I was much less threatened by someone who smoked a joint and came in to train, then the guy that had been loading up on Dianabol. Now I’m not proclaiming that pot doesn’t aid in your training. Of course it enhances your performance, but it’s more of a help with mental focus and in some cases, relaxation. This is a far cry from a steroid, growth hormone, speed, and other various recreational drugs that not only directly impact your strength, speed, and endurance, but many have also proven to be fatal, while surely giving you an edge in some form or capacity. One could even argue that marijuana’s effects are even less dramatic than most preworkout drinks, as even many of those contain caffeine, and/or other drugs. Sleep and nootropics also aid in brain function, and mental focus, but I’ve yet to hear about the Joe Rogan endorsed “Alpha Brain” or naps being a banned substance…
Do people simply need to be educated? I believe that’s part of the problem. The first time I smoked pot, I had no idea what I was doing or what to expect. I didn’t have any understanding of how to use it for it’s medicinal effects. To me there was two states, “high” and “not high”. It wasn’t until much later that I figured out that it’s not all the same, and that you can actually use it responsibly, although, there was an education (and maturity) process that I had to go through in order to get a grasp on it. Some might ask, why even bother? In my case, I went to the doctor for trouble with anxiety and insomnia, only to be recommended Xanax, another powerful narcotic medicine used for anti anxiety, that’s also highly addictive. After going to three different doctors, all of which wanted to prescribe me anti anxiety pills like Xanax and Valium, I decided that I would look into an alternative. Why was I so vehemently against taking pills? Because I had spent the better part of two years kicking a painkiller addiction, and there was no way I was gonna go back start another habit…
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To me, this was an easy decision, and as I’ve found out over the years, it was critical for me to steer clear of things that might relapse me. I go in, train every day, but also run a full time business, and contrinute my writings to BJPENN.COM, along with countless other things. I have never had pot cause a hindrance in my work or training, although every individual is different, and some are certainly more likely to overdo it. In Nick’s case, you have a guy whose not only an elite mixed martial artist, but is also someone who will only fuel his body with the what he feels is the best. His diet and training regimen are unmatched. He doesn’t eat junk, and his entire life has revolved around being as fit as possible. Given how particular he is with what he puts in his body, if he was really causing himself harm, would he not notice it? A lot of people may not give Nick credit for being the most book smart guy, but when it comes to training and diet, I’m sure he’s pretty well versed. Was the risk worth it though? He had a previous failure from his 2007 fight with Takanori Gomi, but this time the stakes were much higher. With a UFC title up for grabs, and millions of dollars on the line, why didn’t he just quit during fight time? I really don’t think he thought he would get caught though. He had fought about a dozen times in the US after his fight with Gomi, so in all likeliness, it was simply carelessness that caught up with him. Either way, you can certainly make the argument that with so much riding on the line, he should have stopped, but he probably truly feels like he’s done no harm in any way, and it would be like being told you’re in trouble for drinking your morning coffee.
Athletes from all sports have all caught grief for smoking pot, as even Olympic gold medalist swimmer, Michael Phelps was blasted for it. To me, the problem is not whether Diaz broke the rules, as he certainly did. The real question is whether this rule is even necessary? To me, it’s simply punishing people unfairly, and in the end, not only will Diaz lose a year worth of paychecks, but his opponents and the fans are also being punished. They get to miss out on what will likely be a huge payday, as both his rematch with Condit, and a possible fight with GSP, were all highly anticipated, and bound to do big business. Meanwhile, the fans now have to wait for the dust to settle, while Diaz serves out a suspension, and only then can these fights possibly come to fruition. People love to use the phrase “let the punishment fit the crime”, it’s just a shame that people are getting punished when no crime was really committed.
- The opinions outlines in this article are that of BJPENN.COM columnist George Mathews and are presented to you for discussion.