UFC, USADA will no longer punish athletes for marijuana use

By Tom Taylor - January 14, 2021

The UFC and its official anti-doping partner, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), have made a long overdue to change to their positions on marijuana use among professional fighters.

UFC, Sean O'Malley

On Thursday, the promotion and the agency announced that, going forward, fighters will not be penalized if carboxy-THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, appears on their drug tests.

“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,” UFC senior vice president of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky said in a statement. “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.

“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 added.

While this is certainly a step in the right direction, it’s worth noting that athletic commissions, which operate separately from the UFC and USADA, can still issue fines and suspensions if fighters test positive for marijuana.

Speaking to MMA Junkie, Novitzky encouraged fighters to keep that in mind, but also emphasized that the UFC and USADA will lobby commissions to affect change.

“I would caution everybody to temper their enthusiasm about this because we still have the commission factor here, but we are actively working on that,” Novitzky told MMA Junkie. “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.”

Do you think this was the right move by the UFC and USADA?

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