You probably know by now that enigmatic UFC fighter Nick Diaz was handed a five-year suspension and $165,000 fine after a third positive test for marijuana metabolites. The latest failure came on the heels of his UFC 183 unanimous decision loss to Anderson Silva in January. After his hearing was delayed many times, he finally had his case heard today - a very compelling case, in fact. Too bad the commission didn't give a damn about it.
The Nevada Athletic Commission has clear standards for the amount of marijuana metabolites allowed in your system during the time they define as "in competition". According to said commission, Diaz tested over the limit on one of three samples taken from him. The one he apparently popped for was tested by a different lab than the other two that he passed. Nick's defense team poked all sorts of holes in the legality and admissibility of that outlier test, and they presented what seemed like valid concerns as to the legitimacy of what the commission was holding over Nick's head.
Nonetheless, even after all that, Mr. Diaz is on the shelf until at 2020 as of now. A third suspension for marijuana is supposed to net a fighter a two-year suspension. Diaz was given five. His lawyer said he will appeal for sure and in the bounds of a real court, my guess is that his suspension will be dropped to a more reasonable term. Whatever that means.
I think we can all agree on a few things here. The current rules in place are, quite frankly, moronic. Despite lifting the failure threshold over the last couple of years, it seems ridiculous that marijuana could be classified as a performance enhancing drug. It's also completely idiotic that fighters who are testing positive for steroids are being given relative cakewalks by this same commission. When first-time offender Alistair Overeem tested positive for steroids, they were so nice to him that I thought they were going to ask for autographs before handing down his suspension. When multiple-time offender Vitor Belfort stepped in front of the commission, they were perverse enough to punish him by giving him a title fight.
Don't forget about Anderson Silva. Silva tested positive for a gaggle of drugs in and around the Diaz fight, including two anabolic steroids. As a first-time offender, he was given a one-year suspension. This came after a song and dance by the commission about tougher penalties for PED users, though apparently those penalties weren't being actively sought until....well, now I guess.
So why was Diaz given five years? Despite the recent threat of the tougher penalties, he wasn't suspended solely for failing a drug test. The NAC panel had already made up their minds before Diaz ever walked into that hearing. That much was obvious, considering the disdain he and his team was shown through the process by the commission members.
But it shouldn't come as much of a surprise to anyone that Diaz wasn't given a single ounce of leniency - after all, he has continually ignored their rules and flaunted his defiance for their authority for over eight years. Part of the reason Nick Diaz got suspended for so long, fairly or not, is because of Nick Diaz.
There are his own statements, for one. He told the commission in 2007 that he'd never test positive again (which they took him to task for in 2012). He boasted to the media in 2009 about being able to beat weed tests. In his 2012 testimony while facing a second suspension, his lawyer stated that Diaz didn't disclose the marijuana use on his pre-fight questionnaire because he had a doctor's note, not a prescription, and didn't think the condition he had the marijuana for (ADHD) was serious enough.
One of the commission's biggest concerns this time around is that he didn't disclose his marijuana use on the form. Again.
Diaz also told them on the record in 2012 that he smokes up to eight days before a fight, which might have not been the best thing to disclose.
Ultimately, just like in 2007 and 2012, he has chosen to smoke marijuana knowing full well that doing so might make him test positive in competition. No matter how absurd you and I might think the rules are regarding weed, they are what's in place today. If you want to get paid to fight, the rules have to be followed even if they seem immoral or unjust. If you break them once, you're in trouble. Twice, you're in more trouble. By the third time, you've pretty much burned (no pun intended) any idea that you might get the benefit of the doubt in a debatable situation.
In addition to that, you'd be fooling yourself if you think Diaz was totally railroaded in terms of the positive test in and of itself. He was taking tests for the UFC in the days leading up to the fight, trying to get a clean sample to submit to the commission. His manager looked into a TUE for marijuana around eight days before the fight. He finally submitted a clean sample three days before the fight. Allegedly testing positive isn't a crazy shock here.
The bottom line is that, as an MMA fighter in Nevada, you have to test clean. If there are no metabolites in his system, the commission can't rake him over the coals for it again. He knew that and still went ahead and did what he did leading up to the fight. While it might seem like a minor transgression on its own, the repetitive nature of his actions clearly led the commission to make an example of him.
Many, including myself, would view Nick's actions today in a positive light. There is absolutely nothing wrong with defending yourself if you feel you've been wronged. His team had a valid case this time, and were clearly not afforded a real opportunity to defend their client. Unfortunately for them, they never had a chance. When you get on the wrong side of authority figures, it's very hard to redeem yourself in their eyes. Diaz has been doing that for nearly a decade, both intentionally and unintentionally, and it caught up with him today. Hopefully justice will prevail and he will be given a reasonable chance at a fair shake.
But ultimately, some of this is his own fault.