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Nick Diaz’s Attorney Makes Strong Argument Against Marijuana Suspension (Update)

Nick Diaz and his attorney have laid their cards on the table.

According to multiple reports, Diaz’s lawyer, Ross Goodman, has filed a response with the NSAC challenging any disciplinary action as a result of his positive test for marijuana metabolites at UFC 143. Notice I said marijuana metabolites and not just marijuana though, because that plays a key role in Diaz’s defense. Goodman is arguing that Diaz shouldn’t be suspended because marijuana metabolites isn’t actually on the NSAC’s prohibitive substance list.

“Marijuana is the only substance that is prohibited; not marijuana metabolites,” Goodman told ESPN.com.

“The basis to discipline Mr. Diaz is that he tested positive for a prohibited substance. We know he didn’t test positive for marijuana. So, you look to see at WADA whether marijuana metabolites are prohibited. They do not prohibit it in any category.”

“You have to test positive for marijuana, as opposed to this inactive ingredient Nick did,” Goodman said. “If there’s nothing in the rules prohibiting marijuana metabolites, why are we here?”

“Why punish Nick, or anybody else for that matter, for a metabolite?” Goodman said. “We’re not talking about a cocaine metabolite. We’re not talking about something illegal. We’re talking about a metabolite that stays in your system for weeks or months.”

Goodman also noted that Diaz stops smoking marijuana eight days prior to his fights to ensure his use falls into the “out-of-competition” category which is not prohibited by the NSAC.

It actually does seem like they have a strong defense, certainly stronger than the good ole’ tainted supplement defense everyone and their mother uses when they appeal steroid suspensions. I’m really not sure what the difference between marijuana and marijuana metabolites is, but if they are different and the metabolites are not on the banned substance list, then I’d say they have a very valid argument. What kind of response and ruling the commissioners will have though is unpredictable to say the least. Pretty much anything can happen in these hearings, so we’ll have to wait and see what the NSAC has to say about it before jumping to any conclusions.

The hearing is still targeted for April but nothing is set in stone yet. The sooner the better though, because if Diaz does get out of this and wants to get back to fighting, there might still be time to book that rematch with Carlos Condit later this summer after all.

The full response can be found here.

Update: Well this is pretty interesting. Jonathan Tweedale, Commissioner of the Vancouver Athletic Commission, actually laid out this exact argument in an editorial on Bloody Elbow last month. In essence, he doesn’t believe the NSAC has grounds to suspend Nick Diaz.

That cannabinoid metabolites are found in a fighter’s sample is consistent with the fighter ceasing to use a month before, a week before, or a day in advance of the contest. Heavy users have been documented as testing positive over 46 days after the most recent use. (See, e.g., Ellis GM, Maun MA, Judson BA, et al. Excretion patterns of cannabinoid metabolites after last use in a group of chronic users. Clin Pharmacol Ther 1986;38:572-578; and Smith-Kielland A, Skuterud B, Morland J. Urinary excretion of 11-nor-9-carboxy-delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabinoids in frequent and infrequent drug users. J Anal Toxicol 1999; 23:323-332.) None of these time periods are instances of use “before or during” the contest – as the psychoactive and physiological effects of marijuana would no longer be in effect.

Accordingly, if the Nevada Athletic Commission’s only basis for issuing a complaint against Nick Diaz is metabolites revealed by urinalysis of a sample collected on fight night, then it is unlikely the Commission has sufficient evidence to prove a violation under a Principled Interpretation of its regulations.

Even if the interpretation of Nevada’s regulation mandated by the Principled Interpretation is mistaken, the rationale-based analysis is still intact. Any disciplinary action levied against Mr. Diaz would have no rational basis in the principles underlying a defensible anti-doping regime unless there is evidence Mr. Diaz was under the effects of marijuana on fight night.

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