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MMA Fighter Diaz Suspended by NSAC and What This Means for Boxing

On Tuesday mixed martial arts fighter Nick Diaz received a six-month suspension, a $3,000 fine and had the result of his fight against top 5 lightweight Takanori Gomi changed from a win to a draw after testing positive for a performance enhancing drug.  While is a boxing site I do think this bears reporting due to the impact that this could have on future results of drug tests for boxers.

The thing that makes this news is because Diaz did not test positive for steroids, HGH or anything else that one normally thinks of as "performance enhancing."  At 6'0" keeping his frame between 155 and 170 lbs would be hard if he were taking drugs that caused him to "bulk up."  Diaz also did not test positive for any sort of amphetamine, allowing him extra energy and the ability to push through punishment.

No, Nick Diaz tested positive for...marijuana.  That's right, the Nevada State Athletic Commission ruled that pot allowed Diaz to be "numb to the pain" taken in the fight.  I was watching the fight live via Pay-Per-View and while it was a hard fought battle with Diaz eating a lot of punches...the fact that he is naturally 15-25 pounds bigger than Gomi had more to do with his ability to absorb the shots than anything.

I will award the NSAC this: Diaz's Delta-9-THC levels were over 300% the level that Nevada considers it's "standard."  However, they are also assuming he got stoned right before his fight, an idea that Diaz says is false.  Oh, and then there is the fact that weed would not help a would seem as though the effects of the drug would be a great hindrance to participating in a combat sport.  WebMD states that marijuana can "make it harder for you to think and solve problems," "cause you to become very uncoordinated," and "increase your heartbeat."  None of these are helpful to a fighter.  From what I remember of the fight, Diaz was also never in a position where he would need to submit.  Fighters do not quit while exchanging blows on the feet, there was no situation where he was "riding out pain" such as a submission attempt that was truly locked on.

To take things a step further former 2 time UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia's first title reign ended when he tested positive for steroids.  He was not stripped of his title (he vacated the title on his own), nor was he stripped of his win.  For Sylvia to receive this treatment for an actual performance enhancing drug, and Diaz to be stripped of a meaningful and hard fought win over a top fighter for being a stoner makes no sense to me.

The question now is, what does this mean for professional boxing?  There are more shady characters in boxing (personal opinion...I admit) and I am sure a fair portion of them smoke pot.  When Tim Witherspoon won the WBA heavyweight title from Tony Tubbs in 1986 post fight testing revealed pot in his system.  The Georgia Athletic Commission said that they could not change the results, but that was not Las Vegas.  Greg Haugen was stripped of his WBO title won from Hector Camacho in '91 at Caesars Palace, but he was not stripped of the win.  That is how a situation like this should be handled, stripping a fighter of a title makes sense, but taking away a win does not.  This is the direction things are going to trend going forward following the 2005 amendment to the NSAC's regulations "if an unarmed combatant who won or drew a contest or exhibition is found to have violated the provisions of this section, the Commission may, in its sole discretion, change the result of that contest or exhibition to a no decision."

By stripping Nick Diaz of his win for a positive marijuana test they have rewritten the rules for what is considered "performance enhancing drugs" this is a move by the NSAC that could be felt in boxing more and more in the coming months and years.

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