Fighters who test positive above the threshold for marijuana no longer will be in violation of the UFC’s anti-doping policy, the mixed martial arts promotion announced Thursday as part of several changes to its program.
The threshold for a positive test is 150 nanograms/milliliter. Fighters still will be subject to in-competition testing for marijuana and its psychoactive component carboxy-THC under the program, which is administered by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. The UFC considers “in-competition” as the time from weigh-in day (the day prior to the fight) until they exit the medical tent after their fight. But there will be no violation for testing above the threshold “unless additional evidence exists that an athlete used it intentionally for performance-enhancing purposes.”
“The only concern that we have here with marijuana, it’s an in-competition prohibited drug only,” said Jeff Novitzky, vice president of athlete health and performance for the UFC and a former FDA agent who investigated steroids and performance-enhancing drugs in sports. “So you want to make sure the fighters aren’t impaired when they’re fighting. And the reality and what the science shows with marijuana is strictly a level in urine or blood really has no scientific correlation with impairments.”
THC is fat-soluble, which means it can remain in a person’s system for weeks, far beyond the period of time of impairment. Novitzky stressed this difference between impairment and testing positive for marijuana.
“The purpose of this is making sure that you are sanctioning for fighters, making sure that they’re really impaired. And not just that they have the high level in their urine, because this stuff’s fat soluble, it stays in your system for a long time,” Novitzky said. “And so our fighters lose a lot of weight close to the fight. So you’re releasing things from your fat cells. And