A defiant act by an MMA fighter transformed global policy on athletes using CBD oil.
When MMA fighter Nate Diaz took a few drags from a CBD-laden vape pen during a press conference, he put his career at risk. Instead of hurting him, the act influenced an important change to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)’s policies, and helped reduce the stigma around hemp.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is an extract of cannabis or industrial hemp which doesn’t cause people to get high. Instead, its beneficial properties includes reducing inflammation. Now, many more professional and top-ranking amateur athletes will be able to use CBD, because recently WADA removed cannabidiol from its list of banned substances.
In this article, we’ll look at why athletes use CBD, and why this change matters for everyone, not just those who compete at sports.
AFTER NATE DIAZ VAPES CBD AT PRESS CONFERENCE, WADA CHANGES GLOBAL ANTI-DOPING RULES
Diaz surprised reporters when he used a vape pen during a press conference after his August 20, 2016 loss against Conor McGregor, who at the time was the featherweight champion mixed-martial arts fighter. Visibly bruised from the fight, Diaz explained that his vape contained CBD oil, and went on to tout CBD’s benefits to the assembled media:
“It helps with the healing process and inflammation and things like that, so you want to get these for before or after the fights, in training. It’ll make your life a better place.”
However, CBD was on WADA’s list of banned substances and also banned by its national equivalent, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). UFC fighters are tested for prohibited substances after the fight and, according to the rules at the time, were prohibited from using banned substances during a window that begins 6 hours before the pre-fight weigh-in and ends six hours after the bout.
Even though Diaz had already been tested (and that test eventually came back clean of all prohibited substances including CBD), the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) would have been in their rights to suspend or punish him for the public infraction.
‘I’VE BEEN A GAME CHANGER’: NATE DIAZ TAKES CREDIT FOR CHANGING CBD IN SPORTS POLICY
Instead, the USADA decided to issue an official warning against Diaz’s conduct. In April, the UFC changed their rules, shortening the prohibited substance use window.
“The in-competition window now closes after the completion of the post-fight drug test sample collection,” reported Marc Raimondi at the site MMA Fighting on May 6.
In September, WADA announced that “cannabidiol is no longer prohibited.” WADA was founded by and is still largely sponsored by the International Olympic Committee, and so regional agencies like USADA quickly follow its lead when it comes to changes in policy. According to the site MMA Junkie, CBD will be removed from USADA’s list of banned substances in 2018. Psychoactive cannabis remains prohibited by both WADA and USADA.
“Yeah, they changed it compliments of your boy here,” Diaz told MMA Fighting in May, taking credit for the policy shift already in progress.
“I’ve been a game changer,” he added. “We just ain’t get no credit for it.”
Diaz, who along with his brother, fellow MMA fighter Nick Diaz, is an outspoken advocate for cannabis legalization, also told MMA Fighting that though he’d benefitted from industry sponsorships he’d made the decision to try CBD “organically.”
WHY ATHLETES USE CBD OIL AND HEMP FOR BETTER HEALTH & WELLNESS
It’s easy to see why someone like Diaz would seek out CBD. Though professional athletes are often well paid and showered in fame, pro sports are notoriously hard on the human body and MMA fights, in particular, leave competitors battered and aching.
Science has shown that CBD can reduce inflammation and ease chronic pain, all while causing few side effects. While we don’t know how many athletes use CBD, studies have shown that vaping CBD is a very popular way to take this supplement, alongside other methods like CBD tinctures and gummies.
CBD isn’t the only form of hemp which can benefit athletes, either. Hemp is a high-protein food that’s rich in nutrients, high in fiber, and might even help fight bad cholesterol. Best of all, it tastes delicious, with a rich, nutty flavor. Hemp seeds go great in smoothies or on salads and yogurt, and hemp protein powder is also widely available.
WHY IT MATTERS TO EVERYONE THAT NATE DIAZ AND OTHER ATHLETES CAN USE CBD OIL
In an October 1 discussion on MMA Junkie, retired fighter Danny Downes downplayed the importance of the policy change, while sports columnist Ben Fowlkes called it a small but important shift toward more sensible treatment of fighters who use substances like CBD and cannabis.
“It’s pretty minor, sure, but it’s an encouraging sign,” Fowlkes said.
While it may be a minor change for MMA fighters, we think it could have much bigger repercussions for all of us. Athletes are looked up to as the pinnacle of human prowess, and we often model our behavior on theirs. The athletic community can set a precedent for the wider world and, as we’ve recently seen, professional athletes can also be important advocates for social change.
At Ministry of Hemp, we see this as a positive step forward toward the deregulation of cannabis and the removal of all legal barriers around hemp growing and use. The timing couldn’t be better either: while the DEA has made absurd threats against CBD vendors, Congress is considering fully legalizing hemp through the Industrial Hemp Farming Act. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is also preparing to advise the World Health Organization about its policy on CBD.
So thank you, Nate Diaz, for helping remove a bit of the stigma around hemp and cannabis, and making the world a little safer for CBD users everywhere.
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