What is the Nevada State Athletic Commission smoking?
On Monday, the Silver State’s combat-sports overseeing body (and, in effect, the world’s overseeing body) suspended UFC fighter Nick Diaz for five years for testing positive for marijuana. His January adversary, Anderson Silva, popped positive for a pharmacopia of steroids. He received a one-year suspension.
One year for performance enhancers and five years for performance inhibitors? This looks like a scene from Reefer Madness. Or maybe from ’60s-era Dragnet, with the commissioners simultaneously playing Joe Friday and Blue Boy. They cracked down hard in a way that only people down for hard crack could. Test them.
The perverse prospect of Silva and Diaz receiving the same sentence for very different offenses in part prompted me to ask Dana White, Frank Fertitta, and other UFC honchos in June whether, given the inclusion of recreational drugs irrelevant to fight outcomes in their new strict policy, they sought to compel non-fighters employed by the outfit to undergo testing like their fighters. “You can test me, too,” Dana White offered. But the UFC won’t. And they really shouldn’t. Not everything is a business’s business. The same holds true for athletic commissions.
As it turns out, Diaz received a punishment five times harsher than Silva’s for a lesser offense. Diaz relying on the scowl as his default facial expression the way Silva relies on the smile helps to explain the disparity. His preferred sublinguistic method of communicating, using the digit between his index and ring fingers, surely figures into the decision, too. And Silva brings a lot more money into Nevada’s coffers than Diaz ever did. The Stockton Bad Boy repeatedly popping positive for pot, and lacking discipline to such an extent that he failed an in-competition marijuana test, likely played into the commission’s verdict as well.
Unlike Anderson Silva, Nick Diaz did not invent a fantastic story of Thai sexual supplements causing his test result. He merely refused to answer the commission’s questions. The commission called this defiance. But even Joe Friday agrees everyone has the right to remain silent, a right that Diaz exercises more than most.
Marijuana, as Mr. Mackey could tells you, undermines health. So does getting punched in the head for a living. But Diaz, a triathlete, knows what’s good for him more than four suits in Nevada. While scientists suggest that marijuana users risk diabetes, the growth of male breasts, and cognitive impairments, laymen observe that draconian punishments against marijuana users can cause this….
A dozen states, including Diaz’s California and the commission’s Nevada, decriminalize marijuana and four more states legalize it entirely. But in the state of delusion that governs combat sports marijuana merits a life sentence and roids rate a vacation of the length that many fighters regularly take between bouts. The UFC, to its credit, adopted one of the strictest drug policies in all of sports this summer that ups the penalties against PEDs. The decision on Diaz neither comes from the UFC nor falls under its new rules. And even if it did, a business firing an employee falls within their rights. A profession blacklisting a performer plays as an offense worse than the performer’s offense. Instead of the UFC cutting the troubled and troublesome pugilist, the same body that blocked MMA in Nevada until 2001 and welcomed Mike Tyson back to boxing in a 4-1 vote the year after he bit part of Evander Holyfield’s ear off meted out a five-year ban (and $165K fine) to guy for going full Tommy Chong.
Nick Diaz turns 33 early next year. Nevada suspended him five years. Even a guy with an eighth-grade education can do the math. The NSAC effectively told the dropout of Lodi, California’s Tokay High School to find another profession (hopefully one that pays six figures for a 15-minute performance with two breaks).
And so Nick Diaz, a stoner in a field that frowns upon that, again hears John Fogherty, a drugs teetotaler in a field that frowns upon that, sing the words: “Oh, Lord, stuck in Lodi again”—or at least, “Oh, Lord, stuck in San Joaquin County again.” Diaz now appears about as welcome in Clark County as the MIT Blackjack Team.
It’s enough to make a Lodi dropout and Stockton bad boy spark one up.