Nick Diaz's disciplinary hearing in front of the Nevada Athletic Commission for allegedly failing a post-fight drug screen after his loss to Carlos Condit on Feb. 4 in Las Vegas at UFC 143 figures to be a doozy.
The hearing isn't scheduled yet, though it's expected to be sometime next month. If things remain as contentious as they have been between Diaz's attorney Ross Goodman and the commission this week, tickets are going to be harder to come by than those for the Final Four.
Goodman has taken an aggressive stance and asserts that Diaz has not tested positive for a banned substance. Goodman argues that Diaz did not test positive for Delta-9-THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, but rather for marijuana metabolites. Those metabolites are an inactive ingredient in marijuana and are not on the World Anti Doping Agency's banned list that Nevada uses, Goodman said.
Goodman is clearly going to fight the case bitterly, and on Thursday, he railed against statements made by the public information officer for the Nevada attorney general's office.
Yahoo! Sports on Monday and Tuesday reached out to Christopher Eccles, the Nevada deputy attorney general who represents the athletic commission, seeking comment on points Goodman raised. Under a new policy instituted by attorney general Catherine Cortez Masto, however, her deputies are not allowed to speak to the media as they have in the past.
As a result, public information officer Jennifer M. Lopez returned the call for Eccles and later released a statement. Via email, Lopez said, "Not only did Nick Diaz violate the law by testing positive for marijuana metabolites, but he also lied to the Commission on his Pre-Fight Questionnaire when he swore that he had not used any prescribed medications in two weeks before the fight."
It is unusual for a spokesperson for an attorney general's office to call a person who will soon have a hearing in front of a state regulatory agency a liar.
Her statement probably wouldn't have been given much notice, though, had she said Diaz must have been mistaken when he checked no to a question asking if he'd taken any prescription medications in the preceding two weeks prior to the Feb. 3 weigh-in.
But saying outright that Diaz lied put Goodman even more in attack mode. He came out swinging on Thursday and insisted that Diaz did not lie when he checked no when he said he had not taken any prescription medications in the preceding two weeks.
The Nevada law that deals with medical marijuana doesn't regard it as a prescription drug. No doctor is able to prescribe it because it is a controlled substance.
Chapter 453A.210 of the Nevada Revised Statutes lays out the requirements to obtain a registry card for medical marijuana. To get the card, patients must comply with the following regulations:
(1) The person has been diagnosed with a chronic or debilitating medical condition;
(2) The medical use of marijuana may mitigate the symptoms or effects of that condition; and
(3) The attending physician has explained the possible risks and benefits of the medical use of marijuana;
(b) The name, address, telephone number, social security number and date of birth of the person;
(c) Proof satisfactory to the Division that the person is a resident of this State;
(d) The name, address and telephone number of the person's attending physician; and
(e) If the person elects to designate a primary caregiver at the time of application:
(1) The name, address, telephone number and social security number of the designated primary caregiver; and
(2) A written, signed statement from the person's attending physician in which the attending physician approves of the designation of the primary caregiver.
"Nowhere in there does it say that the attending physician is prescribing marijuana," Goodman said. "And so, for obvious reasons, before you speak and call someone a liar, you think you'd do a little bit of due diligence and understand what the Nevada law actually says."
Diaz manager Cesar Gracie said in a 2009 interview with MMA Fighting that "Nick has a prescription for marijuana in California. He has had a prescription for the last couple years, so it's a legal drug for him. He has the prescription for ADHD [Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder], and he says it helps him."
But Goodman said it is all irrelevant. He said no reasonable person regards marijuana as either a prescription drug or an over the counter medication.
"It's not like you walk into the pharmacy and start looking around on the shelves and hope to pick up a bag of marijuana," Goodman said. "That's ridiculous. No reasonable person would believe that medical marijuana falls under the category of over the counter medications."
Curiously, though, in his response to the commission, Goodman himself made a big deal about a prescription. He referenced NRS 484C.210, which deals with prohibited substances. Goodman bolded a section which said "if the person who uses the substance has not been issued a valid prescription ... "
Diaz may ultimately be forced to accept a lengthy suspension. He was suspended for six months in Nevada in 2007 for failing a marijuana test. On Jan. 31, boxer Matt Vanda had a hearing after testing positive for a second time. Vanda was suspended for a year and fined 40 percent of his purse.
If Diaz goes down, though, he's not going to make it simple on the commission. This isn't going to be a case where the fighter hangs his or her head, is lectured to by the commissioners and then apologizes profusely and meekly accepts the punishment issued.
Goodman will make certain of that.
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