Why Does UFC and Boxing Hate Marijuana So Much?

Categories: Marijuana
Knocked out by the green
A few years ago SF Weekly sat down for an unconventional interview where an up-and-coming mixed martial arts fighter credited cannabis for some of his success and he wanted to tell us all about it.

He was in a difficult position: marijuana, he said, is on the "performance-enhancing" banned list because it speeds blood coagulation. Yet he and many other fighters used topical cannabis as well as smoked to soothe muscles after daylong workouts. And he wanted to talk about it ... for a day.

A few months later, he called to retract everything he said -- he'd been dropped from his promotional company and had been unable to land a fight since, and assumed our interview had something to do with it.

A similar thing happened to Stockton native Nick Diaz, one of the UFC's top draws. All fighting sports have a serious marijuana problem, as the unprecedented $900,000 fine and nine-month suspension former middleweight champion Julio Chavez Jr. received for a positive test shows. The question is -- why? And as usual, the answer is patently ridiculous.

Chavez, the Sinaloa-born former WBC middleweight champion, lost his first professional fight in September. Shortly after, he tested positive for marijuana, meaning he had cannabis in his blood while losing to Sergio Martinez.

The World Anti-Doping Agency still has cannabis listed on its prohibited list, as we've reported before, but for no other reason than no government -- or at least no government WADA will listen to -- lists cannabis as an accepted and acceptable drug.

The Nevada State Athletic Commission, somehow, managed to be even more nebulous and intellectually fuzzy. Marijuana, the agency said after the Diaz imbroglio, "is banned because of the damage it does to the person taking it," a spokesman said. "It could make you lethargic, slow your reflexes, and those are dangerous things in a combat sport."

In other words, athletes need to be so steered away from using something that would, by the NSAC's metrics, help them lose, that they need to be banned in order to not lose. You follow? Neither do we.

The real damage done here is to career and earning potential after a fine, ban, and loss of sponsorship. And it's too bad: The science around cannabis seems to suggest that it would be more than beneficial to a boxer or other combat athlete, whose training is the most rigorous and whose risks are the greatest.

Change.org and the Marijuana Policy Project have started a petition to change the NSAC's mind, but it seems that with Chavez, there's a clear message. Even if you're the best of the best, you stand to lose nearly everything for using marijuana, for no other reason than they said so.

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