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Nick Diaz Suspended for One Year, Must Forfeit 30 Percent of UFC 143 Purse

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Embattled UFC welterweight Nick Diaz has been suspended for one year by the Nevada state athletic commission on Monday for his post-UFC 143 drug test that came back positive for marijuana metabolites.

In addition, Diaz will have to forfeit 30 purse of his $200,000 fight purse, a total of $60,000.

In a three-hour hearing at the Grant Sawyer State Office Building in Las Vegas, Diaz's attorney Ross Goodman argued that the presence of marijuana metabolites in Diaz's sample did not prove he had used the drug in-competition, and that because World Anti-Doping Agency code does not prohibit out-of-competition marijuana usage, no penalty should be levied against him.

Goodman produced an expert witness, Dr. John Hiatt, who is now semi-retired but previously worked for reputable drug lab Quest Diagnostics, who told the commission that Diaz's test level results -- 25 nanograms per milileter -- could certainly be consistent with someone who stopped using marijuana as much as eight days prior to the test, or even more.

"Depending on the amount of body fat a person has, the rate of turnover of that fat, whether they’re gaining weight or losing weight, they may be positive for marijuana in the urine for the metabolite for days, weeks, or even more than a month after last use," he said.

Diaz -- who was suspended by the same commission for the same transgression back in 2007 -- explained his history with marijuana, saying he first began taking it recreationally with friends before learning it could possibly be used to address his ongoing issues with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). Diaz said he was first diagnosed with that around the time he was in second grade, and that for years, he was ordered to take power prescription drugs including Ritalin, Adderall and Prozac.

As he got older, he said, he learned that some of those drugs were similar to methamphetamine and looked for alternatives. It was then when he began to learn about the therapeutic uses of marijuana.

Later though, NSAC chairman Skip Avansino and deputy attorney general Christopher Eccles seized upon that admission to make a point about potential performance-enhancing aspects of marijuana.

At one point, Avansino asked Diaz if he used marijuana while training? Diaz responded yes, and later added that he used it for "sparring, competitive training, hard training, triathlon racing. Anything that's not going to test me for it. Sure, why not?"

Eccles then asked if it increased his focus, and Diaz said yes.

But in the end, NSAC seemed to be unable to get past two things. First was the presence of marijuana metabolites in his sample. Even Dr. Hiatt admitted that the test was the industry standard for drug usage.

The second was that Diaz had not included any mention of his marijuana usage on a pre-drug test questionnaire, nor any mention of a "serious medical issue" like ADHD that precipitated his use.

Goodman, who mounted a vigorous defense of Diaz, argued that Diaz did not disclose the medical marijuana usage because the form supplied to him had only questions about "prescription" and "over-the-counter" medication, and neither of those truly applied to Diaz's situation, since it was not technically a prescription but a doctor's note that made him eligible to buy medical marijuana from a dispensary.

Diaz said he not consider his case a "serious medical issue," saying he believed the question was reserved for things that would "prevent me from fighting" like a broken bone or other injury.

NSAC executive director Keith Kizer at one point testified of his own belief that Diaz had tried to dilute the sample, alleging he had done so in a October 2011 test, which came back marked "abnormal/negative" from the lab. Kizer said that in the post-UFC 143 test, Diaz did not submit a urine sample until the early morning hours -- presumably after ingesting large amounts of water -- until it was threatened that he would not be paid.

"There was definitely at attempt, in my mind, both in October and February, for him to dilute the sample," he said.

In his closing argument, Eccles asked the commission to hold Diaz accountable for his "doping violation," and they did.

Lundvall noted there is a strict liability standard that makes the athlete responsible for what's in his body, but also added that she wished Diaz would have approached the commission about a therapeutic use exemption for his usage based upon his medical history.

"I think a reasonable person would deduce you have a serious medical condition," she said. Still, she was the one who proposed a one-year suspension.

The commission's vote was unanimous, which means Diaz won't be eligible to fight until at least February 3, 2013.

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