The MMA is not down with MMJ

Brazil’s jurisdictive body for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), The Superior Tribunal de Justica Desportiva do MMA (STJDMMA) das Artes Marciais Mistas has recently reprimanded American fighter Kelvin Gastelum for providing an unclean urine sample after his recent TKO victory over Vitor Belfort in Fortaleza at UFC Fight Night 106. The failed test comes along with a 90-day suspension, his victory being overturned and a forfeiture of twenty percent of the winning purse.

After learning his of his fate, a defiant Gastelum tweeted,

“Suspension accepted, but i will NEVER fight in Brazil again. All they want is $$$$“

kelvin-gastelum-suspended-cannabis

Gastelum is the not the first mixed martial artist to run afoul of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code and won’t be the last unless they remove the plant from the prohibited list. Most casual fight fans or novice smokers couldn’t imagine stepping into the Octagon with a head full of THC or even a residual amount from less recent consumption; it would be counter intuitive. Teachers and coaches have been espousing “weed makes you fat and lazy, unfocused, undisciplined, and unable to accomplish anything at all“ since Tricky Dick invented the War on Drugs.

But is cannabis really a performance-enhancing drug?

Research presented in Cannabis in Sport: Anti Doping Perspective forms WADA’s position that cannabis is indeed a performance-enhancing drug but reads more like a marketing campaign from the cannabis industry for a new product designed with the active consumer in mind.

“Smoked cannabis can decrease anxiety, fear, depression and tension…cannabis smoking reduces anxiety, allowing athletes to better perform under pressure and to alleviate stress experienced before and during competition…Cannabis could also improve oxygenation to the tissues…suggested that athletes were mainly motivated to use cannabis due to its effects on relaxation and well-being, promoting better sleep…Athletes under the influence of cannabis indicate that their thoughts flow more easily and their decision making and creativity is enhanced; others claim that cannabis improves their concentration or reduces pain…”

These extraordinary benefits should be celebrated instead of vilified.
A reduction in anxiety, fear and stress is good. Relaxation, well-being and better sleep are good. Flowing thoughts, enhanced creativity and improved concentration are good. Would it not be easier to remove cannabis from the prohibited list and begin to let everybody enrich his or her performance with a safe, plant-based medicine? A new level of competition where everybody is open to the wonders of cannabis could be upon us.

Sadly, the pencil pushers at WADA also consider cannabis to go against the Spirit of Sport, described in Cannabis in Sport: Anti Doping Perspective as,

“A collection of essential values to be shared in sport. The values included are ethics, fair play and honesty, health, excellence in performance, character and education, fun and joy, teamwork, dedication and commitment, respect for rules and laws, respect for self and other participants, courage, community and solidarity…Cannabis is classified as an illegal substance in most of the world, with penalties ranging from no action to long-term incarceration. The consumption of cannabis and other illegal drugs contradicts fundamental aspects of the spirit of sport criterion. The international anti-doping community believes that the role model of athletes in modern society is intrinsically incompatible with use or abuse of cannabis…Use of illicit drugs that are harmful to health and that may have performance-enhancing properties is not consistent with the athlete as a role model for young people around the world”

Rhetoric like that suggests cannabis users—whether they be a professional athlete, a weekend hacker, a church leaguer, a has been or a never will be— won’t act ethically, adhere to the rules of the game and are incapable of respecting themselves, teammates, opponents or officials. Such flawed rationale is barreling towards a “good people don’t smoke marijuana” level of ignorance. The same bureaucratic nonsense that is responsible for cannabis’ prohibition across the globe blinds WADA and professional sports leagues from the truth that cannabis is safe, healthy and here to stay.

So what if cannabis is a performance enhancing substance. Is that such a bad thing?

Photo Credit: MMA Junkie

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