UFC, USADA make significant rule change regarding marijuana use

The UFC and the United States Anti-Doping Agency have announced a significant change to the UFC’s anti-doping program.

The updated rules effective as of Jan. 1 will no longer punish athletes who test positive for marijuana, specifically THC (11-nor-9-carboxy-tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the main psychoactive ingredient in the drug.

Previously, athletes were only tested for marijuana in-competition around a fight but there were threshold levels in place and a positive test above that limit resulted in a doping violation. Now under the new rules, fighters will no longer be punished for testing positive for marijuana unless “further evidence demonstrates the substance was taken for performance-enhancing purposes.”

“It’s really, as with everything we do with this program, it’s science-based,” UFC senior vice president of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky told MMA Fighting. “Especially in the pandemic era, we’ve had all these issues with fighters and taking fights last minute and then ending up with positive in-competition marijuana results and we always follow up on these — ‘when did you use?’ It always was the case that the use was days if not weeks out from the fight.

“I’ve always been interested in this and pushing for some of these changes but it definitely accelerated our look into it. I think the main thing that guided this decision was a report the Department of Transportation put together for Congress a few years back.”

report submitted to Congress in 2017 called “Marijuana Impaired-Driving” sought to explore how law enforcement officers should deal with drivers who would potentially be stopped while under the influence of marijuana.

Perhaps the most significant discovery from the report stated that unlike blood-alcohol levels, which could more easily determine a driver’s impairment, there was no set number that could show the same for marijuana — “in contrast to the situation with alcohol, someone can show little or no impairment at a THC level at which someone else may show a greater degree of impairment.”

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