Is Nevada Doing “Violent Bob Ross” Wrong When it Comes to Cannabis?

Further update September 3, 2020Today is is reported that the NAC handed Pena a 4.5 months suspension for this infraction.   Pena tested positive for marijuana in connection with UFC on ESPN 12 fight against Khama Worthy. Four-and-a-half month suspension, which expires Nov. 10, 15 percent fine of “show” purse, or $4050, and $218.04 in court fees.  The lesser than usual suspension reportedly was because “Pena immediately admitted to using marijuana, which is not banned out-of-competition, and attributed their positive tests to short-notice fights and residual drugs in their systems. The fighters also said they stopped using marijuana as soon as they received notice of their bookings. Those factors prompted the commission to cut a deal for reduced suspensions.

UPDATE August 17, 2020 – I have it on good authority that Pena’s suspension is based on a competition day test.  It is unclear if he tested positive in a test days prior to competition as reported by MMAJunkie but accepting my source is correct and he tested positive on the day of competition the below analysis would not be applicable.

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Today MMAJunkie reports that Luis “Violent Bob Ross” Pena has been temporarily suspended by the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) due to a positive cannabis test.

The article notes that “Pena’s positive marijuana test came from a urine sample submitted on July 24, prior to his July 27 bout with Khama Worthy at UFC on ESPN 12. He lost via third-round submission.”.  Assuming this is accurate and assuming there is no day of competition test with the same result it is curious as to why the NAC is suspending Pena.

Nevada adopts the World Anti Doping Agency’s prohibited list of substances.  This list bans marijuana however it is only banned in competition, not out of competition with NAC 467.011 noting that

The Commission hereby adopts by reference the most recent version of the:

     (a) Prohibited List published by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

     (b) International Standard for Laboratories published by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

     (c) The Technical Documents published by the World Anti-Doping Agency, including, without limitation, Decision Limits for the Confirmatory Quantification of Threshold Substances and Endogenous Anabolic Androgenic Steroids, Measurement and Reporting.

Moving on to WADA’s Prohibited List all cannabinoids are banned (with the exception of CBD) but these are only banned in competition.  WADA uses the following definition of ‘in-competition’

In-Competition: Unless provided otherwise in the rules of an International Federation or the ruling body of the Event in question, “In-Competition” means the period commencing twelve hours before a Competition in which the Athlete is scheduled to participate through the end of such Competition and the Sample collection process related to such Competition.

Around the time of the Nate Diaz in competition vaping controversy the NAC confirmed that “We will continue to follow WADA’s definitions, particularly the definition of “In‐competition.”

Also worth noting that NAC 467.00275 uses basically the exact same definition with the section noting  “In-competition” means the period commencing 12 hours before the beginning of a program of unarmed combat in which an unarmed combatant is scheduled to participate and ending at the time that the process of collecting samples or specimens from unarmed combatants participating in the program is completed.

Unless there is a cannabis violation that exceeds the WADA thresholds taken during the in-competition window it is hard to understand why Pena is even subject to a temporary suspension.   Hopefully his upcoming hearing will shed clarify on this situation.


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