The MMA world has gone into overdrive, outraged at the five-year ban to UFC welterweight Nick Diaz for allegedly testing positive to marijuana.
Diaz was also fined a ridiculous 33 per cent of his prize purse – $165,000.
If these penalties seem inordinately heavy when compared with the crime, it’s because they are.
The man Diaz fought before the controversy (Anderson Silva at UFC 183) returned a test positive for steroids. He received only a one-year ban.
Lucas Middlebrook, Diaz’ attorney, presented an aggressive defense to the Nevada State Athletic Commission on Monday. In an at times fiery session he questioned the very validity of the test results.
Middlebrook argued that separate tests by the Sports Medicine Research & Testing Laboratory (SMRTL) and the World Anti-Doping Agency both showed Diaz had marijuana well below the 150ng/ ML limit.
The only positive test above the limit was returned from Quest Diagnostics, showing 700ng/ML for marijuana.
Middlebrook then called upon an expert witness to discredit the lone positive result.
“With all due respect,” said Middlebrook, “if the commission imposes discipline based on the complaint as written, which wholly igmores the two negative tests, thereby depriving this man of his earnings and his future ability to earn a living, it’s not only the highest form of administrative abuse of discretion, but it’s ripe for judicial review and reversal.”
But the commission had the scent of blood in their nostrils and argued that Diaz had not claimed the use of marijuana on the pre-fight questionnaire – a document all athletes are required to sign.
Diaz showed his contempt for the proceedings by choosing to plead his Fifth Amendment right to refuse to answer the questions put to him.
MMA fans around the world were stunned.
Marijuana isn’t a performance enhancing drug (the way steroids are). Diaz certainly broke the rules, but banning him for five years effectively ends his career; and to recieve a penalty five times worse than someone using PEDs is absurd.
But what has outraged sportsfans most is the declaration made by Chairman Francisco Aguilar that the sentence is also for things other than the marijuana. “This is not just a casee of marijuana,” he said. “I think this is a case of complete lack of disregard for the sport.”
But Diaz wasn’t on trial for his attitude.
And while he was also suspended in 2007 and 2012 for marijuana use it seems to be drawing an awfully long bow to say this equates to a ‘disregard for the sport’.