Pubdate: Wed, 14 Oct 2015
Source: Seattle Weekly (WA)
Column: Higher Ground
Copyright: 2015 Village Voice Media
Author: Michael A. Stusser


Calling out cannabis testing in sports.

Mixed-martial-arts superstar Ronda Rousey is obviously, pound for 
pound, the most kick-ass fighter in the world, and not to be messed 
with. She has also ignited a firestorm with her articulate and 
accurate attack on the idiocy of marijuana testing in her sport. 
"Rowdy" Rousey made her argument when her friend and training 
partner, Nick Diaz, was suspended for five years by the Nevada 
Athletic Association after testing positive for pot.

"I'm sorry, but it's so not right for him to be suspended five years 
for marijuana," Rousey said at a UFC press conference in Melbourne 
last week. "If one person tests for steroids, that could actually 
hurt a person, and the other person smokes a plant that makes him 
happy, and he gets suspended for five years.

Whereas a guy who could hurt someone gets a slap on the wrist."

To make matters worse, UFC fighter Diaz, a popular star in his prime, 
has a valid medical-marijuana card (from California) and stated he 
was using medical marijuana for ADHD as well as pain management (of 
which there is plenty in his brutal full-contact sport). In an absurd 
side note, Diaz was suspended after a match with the great Anderson 
Silva, who also failed a drug test-for steroid use. Silva's 
punishment? One year. Diaz was suspended for five for having weed in 
his system-though to be fair, it was the third time in his career 
Diaz had tested positive for marijuana, making him perhaps not the 
sharpest tool in the UFC shed. For Diaz, 32, a five-year penalty is 
essentially a lifetime ban in a sport that takes its toll (and, in my 
opinion, should be outlawed, along with boxing, NASCAR, motocross, 
and tackle football).

The whole idea of drug-testing athletes is to see if they're using 
substances that may give them a competitive advantage in their chosen 
sport. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that cannabis 
is hardly a performance-enhancing drug (at least until couch-surfing 
becomes an Olympic sport). Diaz has claimed to use cannabis to heal 
his body between matches.

The World Anti-Doping Agency-one of the many institutions 
drug-testing MMA athletes-states in its rules that marijuana may not 
be used "during competition"-and thus it's quite possible Diaz was 
not in violation, but still had THC in his system from previous use. 
(A small amount of marijuana is allowed in the urine samples WADA 
tests, but one of the three samples taken from Diaz the day of the 
fight had more THC than is considered acceptable.)

Plenty of athletes over the years have admitted to using marijuana, 
not as a PED but to relax and unwind-including the world's greatest 
runner, Usain Bolt; NBA stars Chris Weber and Allen Iverson; beefcake 
Arnold Schwarzenegger; and swimming god Michael Phelps.

As in martial arts and boxing, NFL players do a lot of head-banging, 
and use ganja to manage pain, stress relief, depression, and even 
help repair neurological damage.

And they also get suspended for it. In addition to the dozens of 
players who have been sent to substance-abuse programs for testing 
positive for pot, long suspensions were recently given to receivers 
Josh Gordon (Cleveland Browns) and Martavis Bryant (Pittsburgh 
Steelers) for firing up. Funny thing about the NFL: They have two 
separate drug policies-one for PEDs and another for recreational drugs.

Since Washington state legalized cannabis for recreational purposes, 
our Seattle Seahawks should be able to fire up for fun and not be 
fined (or suspended) for it, right?

Sorry-the commish isn't going for that. (Though a nonprofit called 
the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition is working to allow medical marijuana 
to treat ailments for NFL players.) Thing is, if ganja can give 
professional athletes relief-from joint pain, headaches and 
concussions, lack of sleep, soreness, and muscle inflammation-they 
should have it available.

If nothing else, it will give these athletes much-needed liver relief 
after being prescribed a plethora of addictive and highly toxic 
painkillers and sleep aids by team doctors.

The only organization that seems to be getting it right on marijuana 
is the Olympics! The World Anti-Doping Agency (good Lord, does 
everyone use the same lab?) is responsible for drug-testing athletes 
who are training and participating in Olympic competitions all over the globe.

While cannabis is on the agency's list of prohibited substances 
(though not explicitly banned by the International Olympic 
Committee), they recently upped the allowable amount of THC in an 
athlete's system from 15 ng/mL to 150-most likely because they didn't 
like the idea of suspending 90 percent of their prime snowboarders and skiers.

The WADA lists various competitive advantages of each drug on their 
Prohibition List. For cannabis, these include "better focus" and 
"diminished stress." Now that I think of it, this may be an advantage 
in synchronized swimming, dressage, canoe slalom, racewalking, 
trampoline, and whatever the hell a steeplechase is.

Rules on cannabis and sporting should obviously be changed, and, like 
full legalization, this will ultimately need to take place at the 
national level.

Nick Diaz had a valid and legal (in California) use for medical 
marijuana, but ran into a state (and a Commission) that invalidated 
his legitimate needs.

We'll give the great Rowdy Ronda Rousey the last word on the subject: 
"I'm against testing for weed at all. It's not a performance 
enhancing drug. And it has nothing to do with competition. It's only 
tested for political reasons," said the champ. "I think we should 
free Nick Diaz."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom