UFC Star Nate Diaz Vapes After UFC 202, Could Face Suspension

Nate Diaz vaping during the post fight press conference at UFC 202.

UFC megastar Nate Diaz might have just landed himself in hot water with U.S. anti-doping authorities after openly consuming a cannabis product at a press conference Saturday night. Following a loss to Conor McGregor at UFC 202 in Las Vegas, Diaz took out a vape pen at the post-fight presser and took a puff. When reporters asked, Diaz told them he was vaping cannabidiol oil.

“It’s CBD,” Diaz said after his majority decision loss to McGregor. “It helps with the healing process and inflammation, stuff like that. So you want to get these for before and after the fights, training. It’ll make your life a better place.”

Diaz may be right about the benefits of CBD, but the move could nevertheless earn him a UFC anti-doping violation. Under the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code, cannabinoids are banned “in competition.”  In the UFC, that’s defined as anytime from six hours before weigh-ins to six hours after a fight.

WADA updates its list of prohibited substances annually, taking three factors into account:

  • whether a drug enhances an athlete’s performance
  • whether it represents an actual or potential health threat
  • whether it “violates the spirit of the sport”

The agency considers banning a substance if it meets two of the those criteria.

Since WADA adopted its so-called Prohibited List in 2004, marijuana and cannabinoids have been banned in competition.

With Nate vaping in the post-fight press conference, he is technically still within that timeframe to be tested by USADA. “I can confirm that USADA is aware of the situation and is currently gathering information in order to determine the next appropriate steps,” USADA spokesperson Ryan Madden told MMA Fighting in a statement.

According to USADA, the punishments for specified substances detected during in-competition tests like cannabis and cocaine could result in a one-year suspension for the first offense, with the potential addition of two years for “aggravating circumstances.”

Jeff Novitzy, the UFC’s Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance, defined “aggravating circumstances” across several spectrums, including “egregious intent, conspiracy or agreements with others to attempt to defeat the testing system,” along with past offenses and multiple offenses.

Diaz has never failed a drug test in his MMA career. His brother, Nick Diaz, has three marijuana offenses in Nevada, including an 18-month suspension and $100,000 fine he was hit with last year. Nick Diaz is still currently under suspension by the NAC because he owes the remaining $75,000 of that fine.

According to USADA’s website, cannabis is on the banned in-competition substance list for three main reasons:

Performance-enhancement: A common perception of marijuana is that its use impairs physical activity, including exercise performance. While the effects of marijuana can decrease hand-eye coordination and distort spatial perception, there are other effects that can be performance enhancing for some athletes and sport disciplines. Cannabis can cause muscle relaxation and reduce pain during post-workout recovery. It can also decrease anxiety and tension, resulting in better sport performance under pressure. In addition, cannabis can increase focus and risk-taking behaviors, allowing athletes to forget bad falls or previous trauma in sport, and push themselves past those fears in competition.

Actual or potential health risk: A number of studies show that marijuana use may cause a variety of health risks. These risks include negative effects on respiratory, cardiac, and mental health. Frequent marijuana smokers can experience respiratory problems including more frequent acute chest illness and a heightened risk of lung infections. Marijuana use raises the heart rate by 20-100 percent shortly after smoking which can increase the risk of heart attack. Chronic marijuana use has also been linked to mental illness including paranoia and psychosis.

Violation of the spirit of sport: Negative values and ethics included in sport, and beyond sport, are considered in this criteria. Due to the illegal nature of marijuana in most countries, the use or abuse of marijuana does not exhibit the ethics and moral judgment that upholds the spirit of sport.