In Honor of Nick Diaz: Is Marijuana a Performance-Enhancing Drug?

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“People say that marijuana is going to hurt my career. On the contrary, my fight career is getting in the way of my marijuana smoking.” – Nick Diaz

In the modern era of sports the general population suspect that the elite athletes are all taking drugs – In the case of Nick Diaz, there is no secret.

His about quote was taken after his first positive test for marijuana usage in 2007 after he upset pound-for-pound star Takanori Gomi during his reign of dominance submitting the PRIDE lightweight champion with a picture-perfect gogoplata.

Today it’s official that Diaz has once again tested positive following his UFC welterweight title fight against Carlos Condit – Due to fighters, media personnel and fans making the outcome of the fight the hot topic of the week UFC boss Dana White was pushing to have the two elite welterweights rematch this year while George St-Pierre is on the shelf.

Yesterday word started circling that the fight would not be moving forward due to an issue within the Diaz camp, many jumped to the conclusion that Diaz had taken a little something to cool the nerves while dealing with the heavy media schedule.

Recently Keith Keizer, the head of the Nevada State Athletic Commission put out this press release, confirming that the former Strikeforce champ had tested positive for marijuana use.

The following athletes were tested:  Nick Diaz, Carlos Condit, Fabricio Werdum, Josh Koscheck, Renan Barao, Ed Herman, Dustin Poirier, Max Hollaway, Matt Riddle, Henry Martinez, Edwin Figueroa, Alex Caceres, Matt Brown, Chris Cope, Rafael Natal, Michael Kuiper, Stephen Thompson and Dan Stittgen.  All results received thus far have been negative, except Mr. Diaz tested positive for marijuana metabolites.  A complaint for disciplinary action against Mr. Diaz has been filed.

Diaz isn’t the first to be caught smoking marijuana and he probably won’t be the last – Last year UFC heavyweight Dave Herman tested positive for marijuana and was slapped with a 3 month ban from entering the fighting circle, also former UFC title-challenger Diego Sanchez had a positive test following his obliteration of Joe Riggs but he only ate a $500 fine.

Now I am not one to believe that taking a performance enhancing drug gives your hands of steel and super-strength so that each punch thrown does the damage of a deadly weapon but is smoking marijuana in your down time really giving you an edge come fight day?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Marijuana intoxication can cause distorted perceptions, impaired coordination, difficulty with thinking and problem solving, and problems with learning and memory.” so lighting up on fight day could cause you to be less agile and have a slower reaction time but what about during your camp or post-fight?

The real issue at hand is that the only reason that marijuana is considered a PED is because it’s a banned substance – Alcohol has been proven to do equal, if not greater damage to the human body than marijuana yet fighters are able to hit up the bar, slam down a few tequila shots and chug a beer or two every night if they want to.

In fact, marijuana can have a great benefit – As an elite athlete, especially one with the personality of Nick Diaz you spend your days getting beat up and constantly pressure yourself and those around you to get better, marijuana could be a real helper in cooling the nerves.

Additionally there is a health benefit, studies have shown that cannabinoids, the active ingredient in marijuana actually help reduce pain and puts lingering injuries on a fast-track to recovery.

From a personal standpoint, I am hardly an authority on lighting up grass as I don’t do it but in my opinion smoking marijuana in your down time does not make you punch any harder or give you slick grappling skills; it just makes them hungrier, but not in the competitive sense.

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