Elias Theodorou’s toughest fight is not against any UFC fighter.
Rather, it is taking on the United States Anti-Doping Agency to get a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) for medical cannabis which has been prescribed by his doctor. Although cannabis is legalized in Canada where Theodorou lives, it doesn’t matter to USADA.
“It is because the US considers cannabis as a schedule one drug,” Theodorou said to BJPENN.com. “That means it is in the same threshold as actual heroin. It is an outdated mindset that I am looking to fight not just for myself but for all other Canadian athletes.”
Part of this outdated mindset is the stigma attached to cannabis. Theodorou understands this a major hurdle in getting his TUE to allow him to use cannabis outside of competition.
However, Theodorou is making progress. He continues to talk to the UFC and USADA and provide evidence of why he needs a TUE and the benefits of it.
“It is a work in progress. In many ways, anything worth doing takes time. I’m still in the process and I will continue to push forward,” Theodorou explained. “The way it works out in regards to USADA is they never say no, they just always ask for more information. They give you a list of a bunch of reasons why, so the first time I handed it in it was a list of ten reasons why.
“Now we are down to about four. It is getting closer and closer in regards to allowing me to medicate the way prescribed by my doctor,” he continued. “That is what I am pushing for so whether they say no for the next time and the time after that, I’m not going to stop until my fundamental Canadian right is accepted. That is to medicate as prescribed by my doctor.”
Although cannabis is a banned substance on USADA’s list, it would provide no benefit to Theodorou during the fight. Rather, he wants to use it to help his nerve damage during training camps and post-fight.
“It is more leading up to the fight. I have essentially nerve damage of my upper extremities,” Theodorou said. “It essentially would help in my range of motion, my overall pain threshold. Sometimes I am not able to hit as hard as I want to because it feels like stingers and really aggressive pain that shocks me when I punch. It is a daily thing that I have to deal with and then leading up to a fight is the worst part.
“It would just make me have less carry on of my diagnosis. I’m at a competitive disadvantage right now,” he continued. “It is the same reason why anyone would use painkillers, and the capacity because it is pain management. I’m not asking to medicate during fight day, but medicate all the way up to weigh-ins and wake up the next day, compete and then medicate after.”
Although it would not give him any performance enhancements, it would level out the playing field during his training camps.
With that, Theodorou is continuing to talk to USADA and his doctors to understand what needs to be done to use cannabis as he needs to. He is getting closer, and the hope is he can get his TUE before his next fight.
“Yes, that is why I want to fight at the time when I do,” he said. “Philly would be a great option because it gives me time to fight for my TUE.”
For Theodorou, this is the hardest fight he has had to fight in his career. He continues on to fight USADA and get his TUE, and remove the stigma around cannabis.
“I want to use my platform to bring attention to what I’m doing. But, also bring attention to the current stigma that unfortunately surrounds cannabis,” he said. “It is something that I can slowly remove. Obviously, the stigma still remains but one step at a time. If what I’m doing allows another athlete to get out of the shadows, then I am kind of doing what is the right thing. Not only for myself but for other athletes to educate themselves and that this is an option. Moreover, remove the fear that any type of punishment will happen for just talking about it.”
No matter what, as long as Theodorou is in the UFC, this fight will continue to take place, until he ‘gets his hand raised.’
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 1/21/2019.