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Curtis Blaydes says ‘it’s about time’ USADA stopped punishing fighters for marijuana

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Curtis Blaydes knows his UFC record should stand at 10-2 but instead he’s only credited with nine wins, two losses and one no contest after one of his victories was taken away.

The win wasn’t eradicated from his record because he did something illegal during the fight or got busted for using steroids. No, Blaydes tested positive for marijuana over 15ng/mL in the state of Texas during a second-round TKO victory against Adam Milstead in his second appearance in the UFC.

State commissions are able to set their own thresholds for drug testing policies like the one that cost Blaydes his win. To put that amount in comparison, Nevada only punishes fighters for testing positive for marijuana over 150ng/mL — 10 times higher than the state of Texas.

Just recently, the UFC and the United States Anti-Doping Agency went one step further by announcing that fighters would no longer suffer any punishment for marijuana under the new terms of the anti-doping policy in the promotion. Now the UFC’s anti-doping policy only covers fighters tested by USADA, which means state athletic commissions can still hand down their own punishments for a positive marijuana test but the new rule has been praised by athletes in the promotion — including Blaydes.

“I thought it’s about time,” Blaydes said about the rule change when speaking to MMA Fighting. “It’s not a big deal and it hasn’t ever been a big deal. It’s just an archaic group of people at the top who didn’t understand that weed isn’t the issue.

“Weed isn’t going to help you beat someone. If anything, it’s going to hurt you but it’s not going to help you.”

Jeff Novitzky, the UFC’s vice president of athlete health and performance, was a strong proponent for the rule change made with the anti-doping policy where marijuana was concerned.

He was particularly disturbed by the long list of prescription medications that were completely allowed under the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned substances list — the same one used by USADA — yet he had to warn athletes about a potential positive test for marijuana.

“When I get those calls weeks out from a fight, fighters that use marijuana say ‘Jeff, when should I stop to make sure I’m under the level?’ Novitzky told MMA Fighting in January. “What some of those stories include are ‘I choose to use marijuana in lieu of opioids for pain management, in lieu of Xanax to control my anxiety, in lieu of Ambien so I can sleep because I’m so damn nervous before a fight.’ It bothered me a lot that the rules in anti-doping really directs these fighters towards more dangerous drugs, the closer they get to fights.

“Because things like certain opioids, Xanax and Ambien are allowed at all times. They aren’t prohibited. I felt horrible passing that information along to fighters saying ‘get off the marijuana but you’re good taking Xanax, Ambien and Vicodin before a fight.’ It’s not right.”

Blaydes obviously agreed, especially when considering the addictive nature of many prescription medications like opioids that are often prescribed by doctors when dealing with injuries and pain management.

“Wouldn’t you rather have your athletes doing a natural way to help with the aches and bruises besides all the pills?” Blaydes said. “Pills are worse for your body, they’re worse for the athletes. You get a better product as a league or organization when you don’t focus your energy on something that isn’t a problem.

“All the major sports leagues around the world, the NHL, the NBA, the MLB, the NFL, removed it from their banned substances list because they realized they’d rather have their athletes smoking or using the creams or the drops and all that as opposed to getting hooked on opioids.”

USADA changing the rules regarding marijuana for athletes competing under the UFC’s anti-doping policy is a great first step in the right direction but state athletic commission are still going to set their own standards for now.

A state like Nevada has now completely legalized marijuana usage both medicinally and recreationally but athletes can still be punished in the state if testing positive over that threshold in competition.

Blaydes hopes an organization as important as USADA altering the rules regarding marijuana will serve as an example to the commissions moving forward.

“It doesn’t help you perform,” Blaydes said. “I thought they were supposed to look for performance enhancing drugs? This is not a performance enhancing drug. Just off the definition of your job, why are you worried about marijuana?

“[The new anti-doping policy] means change is on the horizon. I don’t know how long it’s going to take but that was the first brick.”