In a widely criticized decision this past week, the Nevada State Athletic Commission suspended controversial mixed martial arts and Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter Nick Diaz five years and fined him close to $150,000.  The suspension stems from a failed post-fight drug test in January in which one of the three tests Diaz provided tested positive for marijuana metabolites.

Much of the Commission’s inquiry focused on Diaz’s attitude, past disciplinary actions, and seemingly complete lack of remorse, rather than on questions surrounding the process of the failed test.  For Diaz, who is a card carrying medicinal marijuana user, this was his third failed drug test for marijuana, which is still considered a performance enhancing drug in Nevada.  He has also been involved in several other provocative situations which the Commission cited to, such as a post-fight brawl involving one of his teammates in 2010.  The crux of the Commission’s decision focused on the fact that Diaz misrepresented himself in a pre-fight questionnaire by declaring that he had not ingested marijuana prior to the fight, with at least one commissioner recommending a lifetime ban.

In his defense, Diaz’s attorneys tried to focus on the failings involved in the drug testing process, pointing to the fact that within the same night Diaz passed two of the three drug tests he was given.  They even called a medical expert who noted that the results were “implausible.”  Still, the Commission felt that even the one test was indication enough that Diaz had lied on his pre-fight questionnaire and had improperly used marijuana prior to his fight.  Immediately following the decision, Diaz’s attorneys insisted that they would be challenging the ruling in court, and seemed confident that such a forum would find the Commission had abused their discretion in imparting such a hefty fine and suspension (one of, if not the, the largest and longest, even going so far to accuse the Commission of making things personal against Diaz and referring to it as a “kangaroo court.”

Reaction to the hefty suspension has been largely one sided, with fighters and media members alike taking to twitter to criticize the commission.  Much of the disapproval has focused on the categorization of marijuana as a performance enhancing drug, while others have emphasized the absurdity that Diaz’s opponent also failed a drug test, for steroids, and received a suspension one fifth as long.  Regardless, it will be interesting to see how a court will view the contentious decision in future proceedings.

Kevin Cavino

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