When Nate Diaz pulled out a vape pen during the UFC 202 post-fight press conference after losing the rematch against Conor McGregor in August 2016 and inhaled CBD (Cannabidiol), he didn't know that the first puff would change UFC and the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) regulations.
Diaz pushed the envelope. His violation of the rules sparked a change.
CBD, which doesn't have the intoxicating effect of marijuana, is a derivative of the plant. CBD is legal in all 50 states for its wide-ranging health benefits, but yet it was banned by anti-doping standards put in place by WADA. The UFC adheres to WADA's policies.
UFC Vice President of Athletic Health and Performance Jeff Novitzky didn't think the policy was fair to the athletes.
“A big point of contention I have with athletic commissions, really, really frustrated, and that’s the marijuana rules,” Novitzky said while appearing on a recent Joe Rogan MMA Show podcast.
“When Nate fought Conor, I think the second time, (Diaz) goes to the press conference after and takes out a vape pen. And someone asked him what he was doing and he said it was CBD. At the time, the rule was, the in-competition period where CBD was prohibited lasted until four hours after the conclusion of the fight. He was clearly within that time period. USADA contacted me and said, ‘hey, technically, Nate was in violation to this.' I said, ‘hey, look, this was not the intent of the rule,'” he recounted.
The new rule has been dubbed “The Nate Diaz Rule.” The use of CBD is no longer a violation of the fight promotion's anti-doping policy. CBD was removed from the banned substance list beginning January 1.
“That was actually a rule change. The WADA prohibited list, which we follow, took it completely off the prohibited list,” said Novitzky. “They could do it in training. It was only prohibited in-competition, so weigh-in day and fight day (it was prohibited). Now it’s been completely taken off the list and it’s okay to use it any time.”
Diaz' actions resulted in CBD being removed from the banned substance list altogether, but also changed what is considered the in-competition time period. Instead of the in-competition period extending to four hours after the bout, the in-competition period ends at the moment a sample is collected from the fighter after the bout.
“Now, basically, the rule is that the in-competition ends with a collection immediately after the fight,” said Novitzky.