UFC Drug Czar: I Don’t Think Nick Diaz Had Positive Drug Test

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Much of the MMA world is still reeling from the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC)’s recent five-year suspension of popular bad boy Nick Diaz for failing three drug tests for marijuana. The effort to get Diaz freed from his outrageous sanctions rages on to this day, and a high-profile official has come out to publicly state he agrees with those who believe Diaz should not be punished.

UFC Vice President of Athlete Health & Performance Jeff Novitzky, who was brought in to oversee the promotion’s new and ramped-up drug testing, weighed in with his view about the controversial decision in a recent interview with UFC middleweight and Bloody Elbow columnist Josh Samman. Novitzky started by describing his understanding of the sticky scenario, in which Diaz reportedly passed two drug tests at WADA-accredited labs before failing a third at non WADA-approved Quest Diagnostics:

“I don’t have any insight into it other than what was presented in open forum in the commission’s hearing. My understanding was that there were three tests taken the night of the fight. There was one taken before the fight, one immediately after, and one shortly after that. The ones at either end, first and last, were done at WADA accredited labs. Those will be the ones we use under our program, and they are the highest standard in laboratories, both in testing and sensitivity of equipment, and in the way samples are collected. They are sent to the lab anonymously so the lab doesn’t know who they are testing. The first and last tests came well under the threshold for marijuana.”

Novitzky commented on the widespread belief that the commission acted with a vengeful attitude towards Diaz, whom some on the commission felt may have insulted them by pleading the Fifth Amendment to all of their questions. Novitzky said this doesn’t really matter, because based on the results, Diaz shouldn’t have been suspended for the positive result in the first place:

“It’s hard for me to get in their heads to determine that. I’d like to think no. I think there was influence based on the two previous positive tests. I didn’t hear an explanation for the five-year suspension. Their proposed new regulations is three years, which to my understanding hasn’t even been formally passed. It could have been potentially his failure to fill out the form and leaving marijuana off his pre fight that was taken into consideration as some kind of aggravating circumstance. I didn’t hear an explanation behind that. But I think all that is moot, because looking at those three tests, I don’t think that there should have been a positive test to begin with.”

The UFC drug czar addressed Diaz’ legal team’s pending appeal, noting that he fully thinks a court would decide that Diaz was not given the fair shake he is due by law:

“It’s hard to tell [if the suspension will stick]. Historically, if you were to take it through a court system, they’re going to look at whether due process was served, and I think if they get some experts in there that look at these three tests, and how they were interpreted by the commission, I have a hard time believing that a court is not gonna rule that he wasn’t afforded due process. My hope is that it wouldn’t even need to get to that point.”

Moving on to all-new implementation of the UFC’s random drug testing protocol, Novitzky said a mess like this would never happen in his system because they use only WADA labs, something the NAC is not because of their part-time involvement in anti-doping:

“That’s something that will never happen under our program. We’re only going to use WADA accredited labs. I think you’re running into big issues any time you do that, and it’s the second instance I’ve heard of Nevada doing that. In the Silva hearing the month before, the same thing happened with his samples. He had some sent to WADA and one sent to Quest. I can’t figure it out. I think maybe it goes back to what we talked about earlier, if you aren’t 100% involved in anti-doping, again, it’s a difficult field. The part-timeness of their handling and dealing with anti-doping, maybe they don’t comprehend all the repercussions of doing something like that. It’s a recipe for disaster in my opinion.”

And finally, Novitzky discussed the issue of marijuana in MMA, as many believe that it is ridiculous that it is treated as a performance-enhancing substance. Novitzky acknowledged the increasing acceptance of marijuana, and any gray area of it helping an athlete is balanced by the aforementioned threshold of 150 ng/ml:

“WADA has scientists and medical professionals that study each of these drugs, and the effect that they could potentially have on performance. I think there has become an acceptance, it’s legal in many states, and used by many. It’s not that you can’t have any in your system, it is just that those studies have determined that 150 ng/ml is a good threshold to prevent any possible performance enhancement.”

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