MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) is one of the most physically challenging sports. The trainings are hard and the fights are violent. Many athletes in the discipline therefore use cannabis to relieve their pain and recover faster. Despite the total ban on its use by several sports bodies, 45% of MMA sports professionals consume cannabis.
The issue of in-competition and out-of-competition cannabis consumption has therefore been debated for a long time: should it be authorized? Does it have a doping effect? Doesn’t cannabis use risk advancing or disadvantaging a fighter? Should we keep the total ban on cannabis consumption in competition but also out of competition?
Here is the opinion of the Nevada Athletic Commission (NSAC) recently.
Unanimous vote to allow cannabis to MMA athletes
In January 2021, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), which is one of the world’s two largest mixed martial arts organizations, announced that it would no longer sanction fighters for using cannabis. This decision was taken in agreement with the American Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
In early July 2021, it was the turn of the Nevada Athletic Commission (NSAC) to take a big step in favor of cannabis, lifting the ban on its use by MMA athletes. It is even unanimously that the measure was accepted!
After many years of debate and questioning, the committee has finally reviewed its position on the consumption of cannabis by MMA fighters but also by boxers.
The concern of the commission centered on the effect of this substance on the performances of the athletes.
It finally appeared that cannabis was not a doping substance improving or reducing the capacities of combatants. The American Anti-Doping Agency has also downgraded cannabis among substances of abuse and no longer among doping products.
Towards the end of cannabis testing for MMA fighters?
The objective of screening in the world of MMA is above all to ensure a certain fairness between the opponents. The primary interest is to detect the possible presence of doping products in the body of athletes.
Until January 2021, cannabis, containing THC (psychoactive molecule), was one of the substances controlled during these tests.
Here are the two inconsistencies that prompted the Nevada Athletic Commission to change course.
1 – residual cannabis
An MMA fighter using cannabis to soothe his body a few days before a competition risked serious punishment up to and including suspension. This was also the case of Nick Diaz, suspended for 5 years in 2015.
However, we have known for a long time that cannabis remains detectable for several days in the body when it is no longer active.
2- Cannabis is no longer considered a doping substance
It was mainly the opinion of the World Anti-Doping Agency that tipped the scales. The latter recently reclassified cannabis as a substance of abuse and no longer as a doping drug, having any beneficial effect on the performance of athletes.
Faced with this observation, the Nevada Athletic Commission voted unanimously to lift the sanctions taken against MMA fighters who consume cannabis.
Today, cannabis is licensed by the UFC and NSAC for MMA athletes.
In the coming months, fighters will still be subjected to cannabis testing to continue an ongoing head injury study, but without the risk of punishment.
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