According to Matt Riddle, the positive drug test that recently resulted in a brief suspension was more the result of bad timing than malice.
As he tells it, he's not a stoner but an athlete trying to navigate his way through the tricky world of medical marijuana. Riddle, who claimed in a Monday MMA Hour interview that he has been considered a candidate for the treatment since he was about 12 years old, said he went so far as to move to Nevada from Pennsylvania partially because the socially liberal western state has medicinal needs laws in place.
According to him, it was through that state's laws and its process that he obtained a medical marijuana license, and it was because of legitimate medical needs that he smoked the drug about 12 days before his UFC 149 fight.
But the final effects of that last smoke wouldn't come until the hours after his third-round submission win over Chris Clements, when a Calgary Combative Sports Commission official arrived to collect a specimen.
At the time, Riddle was confident his sample would test clean. It did not.
"The thing is, I've quit 12 days out before and didn't have a problem," he told host Ariel Helwani. "To be honest, this drug tester tested me right after the fight. I was super-dehydrated. My pee was brown. It was the pure essence of Matt Riddle. They got the concentrated Matt Riddle in a cup, and I popped."
Riddle said that he is not addicted to marijuana, and suggested that he was using it for a variety of medical reasons, including anti-anxiety and physical pain.
"I do smoke but I'm not smoking to get stoned," he said. "I'm smoking so I can finally relax, sit back and just not worry about things. People, maybe they did it in college one way, but for a guy like me, for a professional athlete that goes through what we go through, it’s medicine for me. Maybe for some little stoner sitting on the couch playing XBox, for him, it's a drug. For me, it's medicine."
Riddle said that when he moved to Nevada, he went through a process of getting fingerprinted, submitting himself to a background check and paying nearly $600 in fees.
"It's not one of those California, Nick Diaz cards where you can go into a store, pay 50 bucks and walk out," he said.
He said the drug makes him feel "normal," not tired, lethargic or stupid.
Though some states have medical marijuana programs, the use of the drug is still banned by state medical commissions. Some states have explored the possibility of offering therapeutic use exemptions for marijuana, but there are not believed to be any granted to date.
Riddle said he addressed the situation with Calgary commission reps, letting them know about his medical use and approval to use the drug before the test, but told them he expected to test clean since he had cut off his usage 12 days before the fight.
He also claimed the commission didn't immediately overturn the result of his fight to a no contest. In fact, he says, they didn't do so until the positive test was revealed in the media, by which time he was practically done serving his 90-day suspension. He also was not fined.
And ultimately, while Riddle apologized to the UFC for testing positive, he said he doesn't find the punishment of taking away his victory fair.
"I did get punished," he said. "I know it sucks, but I know what happened that night."