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It’s Time to Weed Out Unfair Penalties in Combat Sports

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  • It’s Time to Weed Out Unfair Penalties in Combat Sports

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    BY SPECIAL CORRESPONDENTS RYAN SAKACS and RICHARD WASHINGTON -- The UFC recently announced the end of its longstanding prohibition against recreational use of marijuana. Under the new protocol, fighters will be penalized only if USADA (the promotion’s anti-doping partner) finds evidence that the substance was used to gain a competitive advantage. The policy shift could signal that widespread changes to drug testing and discipline in combat sports are inevitable.

    Over the last year, most major American sports leagues effectively eliminated cannabis as a banned substance in response to increasing pressure from players’ unions. However, without the same power of collective bargaining, professional boxers and mixed martial artists remain subject to unreasonable fines, suspensions, and other sanctions.

    Some industry leaders are calling for significant reforms to Draconian regulations imposed by some state athletic commissions. Since his retirement in 2017, UFC Hall of Famer and former middleweight champion Rashad Evans has advocated for the therapeutic value of CBD and cannabis.

    “For athletes at the highest level, it’s rinse and repeat. We compete, then work hard to get our minds and bodies back to the same elite condition for the next fight. There’s scientific evidence that cannabis and CBD aids in recuperation and serves as a much safer substitute for pain management than dangerously addictive painkillers. Sometimes it feels like it’s the athlete versus the commission. Misguided restrictions can lead to unnecessary struggles with physical and mental recovery.”

    But former boxing light heavyweight contender Seanie Monaghan is more skeptical about the advantages of cannabis for active fighters. “I don’t see the benefit for a professional athlete smoking anything that can harm the lungs and weaken cardio. I tried to avoid bad habits and stay disciplined throughout my career because I knew my sacrifices would pay off in the ring. Commissions should continue test for marijuana because it can be a masking agent for PEDs, but it’s time for society to take a softer approach.”

    Joe DeGuardia, CEO and President of Star Boxing Promotions, also urges regulators to proceed carefully before modifying current practices. “By relaxing standards, the other major sports leagues have enacted polices that take the athlete off the hook for what they put in their bodies. Commissions should at least treat marijuana like NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin), which can alter the tolerance for pain. We need to know much more from a medical standpoint before we implement such radical changes to testing.”

    In the leadup to their blockbuster return to the ring, Mike Tyson and Roy Jones, Jr. agreed to forego testing for cannabis altogether. Tyson has a precarious history with weed. In 2001, the Michigan Board of Athletic Control suspended the former heavyweight champ and reversed his victory over Andrew Golota following a post-bout marijuana finding. Tyson has since grown into combat sport’s most recognizable cannabineur. His newly launched brand includes a 420-acre resort called Tyson Ranch in Southern California.

    Tyson’s longtime trainer, Billy White, welcomes society’s long overdue acceptance of marijuana. “It’s taken so long to get to where we are now. The harsh penalties in sports and in the criminal justice system should’ve ended years ago. We’ll look back and laugh at how unfairly we treated this drug. It’s not a performance enhancer in the traditional sense … but then again, I could shoot the ball like Pistol Pete after smoking when I was younger.”

    Fortunately, some influential regulators, including the New York State Athletic Commission, have already reduced or repealed severe punishments. As additional states pass legislation approving adult recreational and medical use of cannabis – currently, 36 states and U.S. territories oversee such programs – slow-to-move commissions must adopt standards that better reflect our culture’s evolving understanding of marijuana.


    RYAN SAKACS is the Senior Legal Counsel to Arcview Management Consulting, a leading cannabis professional service firm. Sakacs previously served as Counsel to the New York State Athletic Commission, Special Counsel with Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, and was the founding Chief of New York City’s Prescription Drug Investigation Unit.

    RICHARD WASHINGTON is the principal attorney for the Law Offices of Richard J. Washington, P.C., where his practice focuses primarily on Labor, Employment and Administrative Law. Before entering private practice, Richard served as an Assistant District Attorney in New York County, and worked as counsel to the New York City Department of Education and the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation.

    Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel

  • #2
    Marijuana enslaves.

    The prohibition of it is actually liberation from it.

    Promote boxing not pot use for pathetic pugilists.


    • #3
      And “CBD” is modern day snake oil.

      Sold by snakes to other, less educated snakes.


      • #4
        A self-serving article if ever there was one. Boxing is dangerous enough. Why make it more so?


        • #5
          You see, I would actually allow them to use some marijuana products like CBD, gummies, marijuana tea or cookies, but I would never allow the sportsmen to smoke, and it is not only about marijuana, they should not smoke at all. I have recently tried a thing, it was kind of a marijuana butter. Man, I liked that so freaking much! It is really different to anything else, I adore it! Right now I am looking for the best weed butter makers, so I can make weed butter at home. Moreover, I have also read about it a lot of things, and it proves to be really useful.
          Last edited by Nagisa; 04-26-2021, 07:14 AM.


          • #6
            Due to competition or arduous training, many sportsmen are constantly stressed. Some of them use marijuana to unwind.