Novitzky: Marijuana Should Not Be Prohibited
As restrictions on marijuana continue to decrease, its use is only increasing among mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters.
According to a poll conducted by The Athletic that surveyed 170 fighters, nearly half — or 49.5 percent — revealed they use marijuana for recovery or recreational purposes. In addition, 4.6 percent used marijuana in the past but don’t anymore, while 76.5 percent of fighters also revealed they have used cannabidiol (CBD).
For UFC’s senior vice president of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky, this doesn’t come as a surprise.
“I think that sounds pretty accurate,” Novitzky said. “I’ve never polled our roster — it’s all anecdotal — but I have had many, many, many discussions. It’s probably the No. 1 topic of questions that I’m asked from fighters.”
Despite all the benefits of marijuana, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has it listed as a banned in-competition substance along with cannabinoids.
The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) adheres to WADA’s list with MMA fighters not allowed to test positive for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the primary psychoactive constituent of cannabis — in concentrations higher than 150 ng/mL during the period from weigh-ins till a fighter leaves the cage. This threshold was increased from 2013 when it was just 15 ng/mL.
As more and more states ease their restrictions on marijuana, Novitzky hopes the substance — that recently got UFC middleweight Kelvin Gastelum suspended a second time — eventually gets taken off WADA’s list.
If not, it could lead to a more dangerous path for MMA fighters.
“This anti-doping was supposed to be put in place for the protection and health and safety of the athletes,” he said. “It’s actually, if you look at it, pushing athletes to more dangerous, more addictive drugs. That’s the biggest problem I see with that. I can almost guarantee you (that happens) because I’ve had these conversations with some of our athletes when I tell them that marijuana needs to be discontinued a few weeks out from the fight.
“That’s blood on the hands of the anti-doping movement and WADA right there. …That’s the major reason why I think that those rules need to be changed and uniformly. We need to take marijuana off the prohibited list.”
Hopefully, that ends up being the case as it’s pretty clear that marijuana has no performance enhancing benefits when it comes to the actual fighting.