MMA Analysis: Nick Diaz, Chael Sonnen Rulings Expose NSAC's Hypocrisy

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Chael Sonnen was suspended by the California State Athletic Commission following his first fight with Anderson Silva for elevated testosterone levels. Sonnen’s explanation was that he had previously had a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) for testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) in Nevada and wasn’t aware he had to get a separate one for California. Nevada State Athletic Commission director Keith Kizer’s response was a succinct “um, no you didn’t”.

On Monday, Sonnen applied for a TUE for his rematch with Silva in front of the Nevada commission, of which Kizer is still director. Despite testosterone being a performance-enhancing drug (PED), Sonnen’s evidence that he truly medically needs it to be middling at best and his previous history in telling lies that had the NSAC’s name attached to them….he got the TUE no problem and now has a valid license to cheat in the Silva rematch.

The other NSAC hearing Monday featured Nick Diaz and his positive test for marijuana metabolites following his loss to Carlos Condit. Diaz had a previous marijuana-related suspension following his win over Takanori Gomi at Pride 33. Unlike after the Gomi fight however, Diaz was not found to have the active ingredient of marijuana (THC) in his system. Diaz’s urine sample only showed the presence of inactive metabolites which were consistent with him having last used marijuana eight days prior. Diaz was also in possession of a physician’s statement which allows him to use marijuana on a medicinal basis in the state of California, of which he is a resident.

The distinction between marijuana and marijuana metabolites is important because the NSAC bases their prohibited substances list on the list used by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The WADA list contains marijuana as a prohibited “in competition” substance but makes no mention of marijuana metabolites from when the substance was used “out of competition”.

If the NSAC wants to play by the WADA rules, then they have no basis to suspend or fine Diaz. Instead, as Goodman noted, the commission seemed to have their mind made up before the hearing began and circumvented their own rules to punish him. Goodman made the following remarks to

In my closing argument I basically reminded ‘Skip’ Avansino, who is the chairman [of the NSAC], that in the TUE hearing that occurred before us [with Sonnen] he said ‘the presence of a prohibited substance would constitute a violation’. Those were his words. The chairman of the commission.

All you have to do is look at the ruling and tell me where it says that Nick tested for the presence of marijuana. Because he didn’t. And if you’re saying ‘the presence of a prohibited substance would constitute a violation’ then you have to show me where in the rules marijuana metabolite is a prohibited substance.”

They never answered that. They never responded to that. They just made up a rule. They read the rule in there. It was like on an ad hoc basis.

[Avansino] agreed with what our whole position is: that evidence of prior use of a prohibited substance is not presence of a prohibited substance. Everyone acknowledges that marijuana metabolites means that at some point before that you used marijuana, but evidence of prior use is not a violation. You have to show presence of prohibited substance according to Nevada rules to constitute a violation. That was never addressed. That was never responded to. That was never clarified.

Effectively what they did, was punish him for legally consuming marijuana more than a week before the fight and then having an inactive component sequestered in his fat tissue after the fight.

Goodman plans to appeal the ruling before a district court judge, where little things like the actual rules on the books will carry more weight. What was equally unsettling was the commission’s line of questioning during the Diaz hearing, which seemed to focus more on why Diaz dropped out of high school and whether he considered his ADHD a “serious” medical condition than whether or not he had actually violated a rule. Commissioner Pat Lundvall (who became notorious ofter King Mo Lawal labelled her a “racist bitch”) actually said she found Diaz’s testimony to indicate marijuana was a performance enhancing drug, despite no one saying that and despite sixteen states’ contention that it is not a PED and not an illegal narcotic but a medicinal tool.

The message being sent after the Sonnen/Diaz hearings and before that the Overeem debacle by the NSAC is clear: Steroids are OK; lying to athletic commissions, or in Overeem’s case, trying to flee the scene to avoid being tested is OK. But if you’ve ever smoked marijuana, they’ll trip over their own rules to get you.


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