Despite NSAC's new pot limits, hefty fines remain for violators


keith-kizer-4.jpgOne effect of relaxing marijuana testing thresholds for Nevada fight licensees could be more disclosure.

Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director Keith Kizer hopes applicants would be honest about whether they used marijuana in the weeks preceding a fight, particularly if they were aware of the punishments levied against retired MMA fighter Nick Diaz and boxer Julio Ceasar Chavez, Jr.

Diaz forked over $79,500, while Chavez Jr. paid $100,000 to the commission after failing post-fight drug tests in the state.

Now, as then, not admitting pot use in pre-fight medical paperwork might be just as costly.

“I think anyone should know from Chavez and Diaz, you better do that,” Kizer told MMAjunkie.com. “I don’t know why they wouldn’t.”

With athletes able to have more of pot’s chemical remnants in their bodies at the time of testing, their fear of failure might be on the decline. The commission earlier this month tripled the allowable amount of marijuana metabolites on drug tests, nixing the previous limit of 50 ng/mL for the 150 ng/mL cutoff, which was adopted earlier this year by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in response to changing attitudes about pot.

The commission had discussed raising the threshold as early as October 2012, but hadn’t decided how to direct laboratories that conduct post-fight screening, Kizer said. Previously, the commission erred on the side of caution when it came to deciding acceptable metabolite levels. Initially, it was set at 15 ng/mL, but after several advocates warned of false positives due to secondhand smoke, it was set at 50.

The level, however, was not foolproof. Because the drug cleared from people’s systems at different rates, there was no certain way to determine when it was used. And given that the drug’s active effects ended long before it cleared from the body, the benefits of policing the drug became a hot-button issue for the commission and other regulatory bodies.

“The scientific part was, we’re going to play it safe,” Kizer said. “If some of the people get caught, they may not have abused for two weeks. But we want to make sure that the other people that marijuana gets out of their system more quickly, that they don’t get away with smoking within days of the competition.”

The NSAC, which follows WADA protocols on banned substances, still maintains a policy that marijuana is prohibited in-competition. But the new levels are expected to define that more clearly.

“The drugs of abuse, there’s always a cutoff, because they’re not banned out-of-competition,” Kizer said. “They’re banned in-competition, and that doesn’t mean, ‘As long as you’re not smoking during the competitions.’ If you look at the detection window for opiates, cocaine, methamphetamine, the window of detection is anywhere from a couple of days to a half a week, but for marijuana, it was like 15 days. The question is, why is that so high? I think part of it was political; the same reason why marijuana is a Schedule I drug.”

In prior consultations with WADA, Kizer said doctors working with the regulatory admitted that even the new cutoff was more political than practical.

“(The WADA doctor said) 150, more often than not, will be more in line than 50 will,” he said. “There might be someone who’s an outlier, who just smoked a bunch of weed but is only at 100, but they’re few and far between.”

The NSAC head said that doesn’t mean athletes should take the new rule as a cue to start using pot more frequently, or closer to a fight. There are still hefty penalties that await for athletes that fail.

(Pictured: Keith Kizer)

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