Just when you’re beginning to think there’s no justice in this world, and no decency or beauty either, something appears from out of the clouds to give you a little hope: just a little something to get you through.
Last month, after his five-round classic with Conor McGregor, Nate Diaz answered questions at the post-fight press conference while vaping, likely a first for MMA. Asked what was in his e-cigarette Diaz admitted it was cannabidiol oil, or CDB, a non-intoxicating compound found in marijuana.
“It’s CBD,” Diaz said. “It helps with healing process and inflammation and stuff like that. So you want to get these for before, after the fight, training, It will make your life a better place.”
Now, in a reasonable world that admission would have been the end of it. Diaz had just put himself through hell for 25 minutes, a hell manifested on his face in the form of bruises and cuts and eyes all but swollen shut. And he had done so in the service of what we know now was the biggest pay-per-view event in UFC history. If anyone deserved a little healing it was Nate Diaz.
But cannabidiol is still considered a Schedule I controlled substance by the federal government, and while the Drug Enforcement Agency recently eased restrictions on Food and Drug Administration-approved clinical studies investigating the compound for medicinal value, the FDA does not, contrary to some reports, classify cannabidiol as a dietary supplement. CBD is an active cannabinoid, and cannabinoids are on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of in-competition banned substances. And the timeframe for an in-competition violation extends six hours after the end of a fight, during which time Diaz was caught on video doing his vaping.
And since controversy follows the Diaz brothers as sure as night follows day, immediately after that video appeared on the Internet, the UFC’s anti-doping partner, the USADA, announced they were “gathering information in order to determine the next appropriate steps,” leaving MMA fans, including the thousands of new fans Diaz helped bring into the fold with his performance not 30 minutes earlier, to marvel at the possibility that a fighter might be banned from competition for seeking out the aid of a substance proven to have minimal psychoactive properties and believed to have great medicinal potential. Of course longtime fans have been marveling at MMA drug policy for years, at least since Nate’s older brother, Nick, was given a five-year suspension after testing positive for marijuana metabolites back in 2015. In many ways madness and lunacy still reign.
But yesterday evening the light of reason burst through the clouds in the form of a tweet from MMAFighting reporter Ariel Helwani claiming that the Nevada Athletic Commission had decided “not to impose a penalty on Nate Diaz for ‘vape-gate’, since it happened post-drug test.” Which is fantastic news. After all it was the NAC that brought the hammer down on Nate’s brother, only reducing Nick’s ban to 18 months after succumbing to enormous public pressure and (we assume) realizing the insanity of imposing a harsher penalty on a fighter who smokes pot than one who does steroids.
But the NAC’s decision doesn’t mean Nate Diaz is out of the woods yet. The USADA has proven itself to be a harsh and unforgiving disciplinarian during its short reign as the UFC’s anti-doping partner (save in extenuating circumstances, like, say, when a popular professional wrestler is involved), and Helwani claims the agency is still “looking into it.”
But because we know that tomorrow is not promised to us, today we celebrate. We celebrate the return of a bit of reason and humanity to our beloved sport and we celebrate the possibility that one of the great fighters and personalities of his era won’t have to spend a prime year of his fighting life sitting on the sidelines because he wanted to get a small bit of chemical relief after putting his body and mind through purgatory for our entertainment.
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