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Mad About Diaz’s Suspension? Don’t Blame the Commission [Editorial]

Monday afternoon the Nevada State Athletic Commission suspended UFC welterweight contender Nick Diaz for a year and fined him thirty percent of UFC 143 purse due to a fail drug test. NSAC’s ruling angered the California native’s fan base as well as Diaz and his team. While many are looking to blame NSAC for being too hard on Diaz, MMAFrenzy examines where the blame ultimately should fall in the situation.

Brinkmanship is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the art or practice of pushing a dangerous situation or confrontation to the limit of safety especially to force a desired outcome.” It has become a rather painful part of everyday politics in our nation’s government and a practice long-used as a deterrent in foreign policy in the Nuclear Age.

Typically, in brinksmanship, both sides come to the edge of disaster before last-minute concessions are made and disaster is averted. Nick Diaz’s legal team employed this tactic against the Nevada State Athletic Commission and yesterday it ended in disaster for Diaz as he was suspended and fined by the commission. So why did this practice end in Diaz being sidelined for a year? Well it is quite simple, they took it too far.

This failed test should have been a simple matter of a commission hearing and, what has become the sadly typical, slap on the wrist punishment where the commission reduces the suspension and fine. Instead, Diaz’s legal team made multiple counterstrikes against the commission that actually resulted in an additional penalty (providing false information on his medical questionnaire) being added to original failed test. The largest shot fired across the bow of the commission being Diaz’s camp filing suit against NSAC and challenging their ability to regulate the sport entirely.

It is this move that crossed the line and prevented Diaz from having any shot of receiving favorable treatment from the commission as it drew the ire of the State’s highest legal authority, the attorney general. By filing a lawsuit, brinksmanship ended and war was declared since brinksmanship is based on the threat of doing something rather than actually doing it.

This gross overreaction by Diaz’s attorney was further compounded by what was an already long shot defense. Diaz’s camp was trying to exploit the difference between what substances are banned explicitly and the metabolites Diaz tested positive for. The problem with this argument is not whether Diaz was high in his fight, which he was not, but that overturning a drug test on the basis of metabolites not being explicitly named would set a bad precedent for all urinalysis results. I say this since metabolites are formed from the body’s usage (or metabolizing) of a drug and those byproducts are what is excreted in urine. To dismiss a test on the grounds of metabolites not equating with their source would theoretically open the door to all drug tests (as one commissioner mentioned), including steroids, being challenged. This is territory the commission would never consider visiting in an open hearing.

There was also another huge flaw in the defense of Diaz and that is Nick Diaz. Diaz is not some scheming politician using  technicalities to skirt the law to gain an unfair advantage, he simply loves pot and he enjoys fighting for money. That is Nick Diaz, and this was on full display during the hearing during a line of questioning brought on by Diaz’s legal team’s assertion that Diaz requires marijuana for a “serious medical condition.”

Diaz’s lawyer argued that Diaz’s use of marijuana was not only legal and consistent with WADA regulations (which the Commission reminded him that WADA does not apply in Nevada) on marijuana use but necessary. This argument fell apart for two reasons, one being that Diaz himself was extremely candid about using marijuana well before being given a recommendation and two, Diaz’s perceived attempts to hide his usage on both the pre-fight questionnaire and possible tampering allegations from NSAC executive director Keith Kizer.

Ultimately, the legal defense of Nick Diaz has gone far past what should be a simple issue. To not only make this a public spectacle but to potentially undermine the legal authority of the State’s MMA regulatory body over something as benign as a pothead failing a drug test is absurd. Do massive changes need to occur in the handling of drug issues by Athletic Commissions? Definitely, but to make try and make a martyr of Diaz when he did violate the rules (even if you disagree with the test results, they did prove the other violation that Diaz did not properly fill out his forms) and did not take advantage of alternative path that Chael Sonnen already proved easy to acquire literally minutes before Diaz’s hearing is asinine. As Commissioner Pat Lundvall alluded to, had Diaz simply applied for a Therapeutic Use Exemption, this issue could have been avoided.

In the end, the blame for the test results rests solely on Diaz and his management team for not taking advantage of a TUE and the blame for Diaz’s punishment rests on his legal team. NSAC has already proven they are willing to knock down suspensions and fines of fighters who test positive simply because known fighters supposedly provide an economic boost for the cash-strapped commissions. So why the all out legal assault? That all falls on the people Diaz entrusts to handle his business so he can spend more time training and smoking. Even now Diaz’s attorney, Ross Goodman, is apparently considering yet another lawsuit in regards to NSAC’s hearing today, a move that is unlikely to expedite Diaz’s return to MMA.

Personally, I do not care if Diaz smokes pot 24/7/365 as long as he abides by the same rules all fighters have to. Everyone has to do things in life they do not particularly enjoy doing but are obligated to do for the purposes of securing a living and Diaz is no different. To think otherwise because some people are willing to pay money to watch you fight is childish. Until Diaz learns to accept responsibility for a genuine mistake he made, rather than trying to blame an authority he believes is treating him unfairly, do not expect to see Diaz entertaining in the octagon anytime soon.

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