Nick Diaz vs. The NSAC


Disclaimer: This column, as is the case with most things that I write, is an MMA op-ed column. The opinions and views expressed are my own and may not necessarily reflect CBS Sports, the 920 AM affiliate, or insideSTL Enterprises, LLC.

The Twitter-verse has spoken! Amid the clanging of keys, #FreeNickDiaz has risen to prominence.

The Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC/NAC) suspended the renowned veteran on September 14 for five years along with a $165,000 fine after he tested positive for marijuana metabolites for a third time. To quote The Dark Knight’s Joker, “and...here...we….GO!”

On February 3 the UFC issued the following statement:

“The UFC has been notified by the Nevada State Athletic Commission that Nick Diaz has tested positive for marijuana metabolites following his fight with Anderson Silva at UFC 183 on Jan. 31 in Las Vegas, Nev. The UFC has a strict, consistent policy against the use of any illegal and/or performance enhancing drugs, stimulants or masking agents by our athletes. As a result of his positive test, Diaz has been informed that he has violated the UFC Fighter Conduct Policy and Promotional Agreement with Zuffa, LLC. The UFC organization will fully respect the Commission’s decision relating to Diaz at a hearing set for February 17.”

The hearing was later delayed, but the punishment was finally announced earlier this month as mentioned above. The NSAC cited their previous run-ins with Diaz as reason for their severity.

Brett Okamoto of ESPN wrote, “During a 2012 hearing, commissioner Pat Lundvall reminded Diaz he had "promised" the commission in 2007 that he would stop smoking marijuana. Lundvall asked Diaz how quickly he had resumed smoking after making that promise.

"I imagine when I got home," Diaz deadpanned.”

Support for Diaz has grown beyond an outpouring of posts on social media to a petition to the federal government. I reached out to the NSAC for comment.

“I've been reading about how some people feel that marijuana (cannabis) shouldn't be a concern for pre/post-fight drug tests because it is not a performance enhancer. During these tests, are enhancers all that are looked for or do the tests show everything in a donor's system such as narcotics and PEDs?

Is there an allotted amount of cannabis that can be in a donor's system before they are considered to have failed the test or is a zero tolerance policy in effect?

Was Mr. Diaz suspended directly due to the federal illegality of cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance or because he had more in his system than allowed? Did Mr. Diaz avoid legal consequence due to (medical) cannabis being legal in his home state of California?

With the situation still up in the air, I received the response that I expected.

Sept. 24

“Dane,

Good morning.

Regarding Mr. Diaz there may be potential pending litigation. Unfortunately at this point in time it wouldn't be judicious of me to respond to your email. I look forward to speaking with you in the future.

Thank you and have a good day.”

Respectfully,

Bob Bennett Executive Director Nevada Athletic Commission

____

I want to make it clear that I am not involved with nor have knowledge of the details of Nick Diaz’s situation beyond the average person. Still, the little that the email might be suggesting is that an appeal could be underway. What does the future hold?

Does Diaz deserve to come back? - Even after his third offense, I’d say yes.I believe that the public perception of marijuana has largely changed, and the outpouring of support for Diaz (or anger at the NSAC if you prefer) from current fighters, coaches, UFC legends and Hall of Fame members (Don Frye and Bas Rutten respectively) can’t be ignored.

#FreeDiaz? Not so much. - Whether for medicinal or recreational use, I am pro-marijuana under proper legal circumstances. While it is my guess that Diaz has as far as I know avoided legal consequence due to California law, like Rutten said on a recent episode of AXS TV’s Inside MMA, “It’s a dumb rule that it’s there, but it’s there.”

Marijuana is not a performance-enhancer, but it is still federally illegal and it would be reasonable to say that is the reason why it is against the Fighter Conduct Policy. Bottom line is, Diaz knowingly broke the rules (even though I agree with Rutten’s opinion). Not only is this his third time being caught, Diaz has bragged publicly about his ability to cheat the testing system.

Previous statement: "I’m happy to get loaded, hear some good music . . . I remain consistent. And I have an easy way to deal with [the drug tests]. I can pass a drug test in eight days with herbal cleansers. I drink 10 pounds of water and sweat out 10 pounds of water every day. I’ll be fine."

Diaz deserves a punishment. While fighters like Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva are now banned for life (a fate Diaz narrowly avoided) after failing to even submit a drug test, Diaz’s situation seems to be unique given that this is the second-longest suspension with exception to Silva according to ESPN. That also seems to show that there has never been a suspension like this as it relates to marijuana.

My suggestion? Diaz serves two years and pays the $165,000.

The UFC and other organizations are trying to clean up the sport. Good. However, based on precedent (refresher: an earlier event or action that is regarded as an example or guide to be considered in subsequent similar circumstances) a jump from six months, to one year, to FIVE is absurd --even if the NSAC felt disrespected.

Diaz, 32, wouldn’t return until 2020 under the current suspension. Unless he wins a reduction, his career may very well have gone up in smoke.

#UFC