Friday, March 9, 2007

Kizer talks Diaz and marijuana testing

By Elias Cepeda

When Nick Diaz dropped down a weight class to lightweight and choked out the number one lightweight in the world, Pride lightweight champion Takanori Gomi nearly two weeks ago at Pride 33 in Las Vegas, Nevada it was a dramatic and significant upset win for the Stockton, California resident. But unfortunately for Diaz that huge win may have an equally large downside.

This week the Nevada State Athletic Commission got the last of its drug tests back for Diaz and he tested positive for having marijuana in his system during the fight. Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director Keith Kizer spoke with InsideFighting Wednesday to explain the situation for our readers.

“His (Diaz’) test came negative for steroids…unfortunately his test came back positive for marijuana. We got it back yesterday (Tuesday, March 6). I sent out the complaint and he should be getting that by week’s end” said Mr. Kizer.

What is the process like for Diaz at this point?

“He’d have twenty days to file a written answer…Our next agenda is near the end of month. I’m going to ask the commission for a temporary suspension of him until we do the hearing. It’s the status quo. Sometimes guys are ready to go with their defenses in a month’s time. It’s up to them, really on how long they want to work on their defenses and presentations” Mr. Kizer detailed.

It’s unclear, with a substance like marijuana, what a “positive” test means at face value, but Mr. Kizer explains that, in his opinion, the threshold for allowable level of marijuana in a fighter’s system that the state of Nevada uses is actually pretty large in comparison to the types of drug tests many non-athletes in the workforce face. He’s also adamant that it’s strictly about fighter safety and not ethical or lifestyle judgments on fighters like Diaz.

“Most marijuana tests are done with employment tests. What they use as a limit is 15 nanograms per millimeter, what we do here is we raised it to 50 nanograms* so there is no way if someone tests positive with that level that it was second hand smoke or done weeks ago. It was done recently and is in their system. It’s more than three times what is tested for in normal marijuana tests. If you’re over 50 nanograms there is concern of a slow down in reflexes or being more impervious to pain. So it could either be a disadvantage or an advantage. Most of the time I think it’s the former. Most of the guys that have tested positive recently for marijuana got beat and got beat bad including Joe Pearson. Just like we wouldn’t let them go to the ring under the influence of alcohol, we don’t want to do that with marijuana” Mr. Kizer said.

“You know you have a fight coming up. Just like alcohol, don’t drink right before your fight and don’t smoke if you have a fight coming up. Marijuana may stay in your system longer than alcohol but you just have to decide. It’s not about being immoral. It’s the same with aspirin. You can’t take aspirin before your fights (because of the dangers the drug’s blood thinning effects could pose during a fight) and that’s not an immoral thing to do. Athletes have to make sacrifices for their job from time to time like everyone. Do the drugs or fight, you have to choose” concluded Mr. Kizer.

It’s clear that the commission takes marijuana use by fighters around fight time seriously, but how does that compare to their concern with steroid use, and how might that affect Diaz in terms of a possible drug suspension after he faces the commission?

“It’s up to the five commissioners; I have no say in it. But I could just tell you based on the penalties given out recently for steroids and marijuana because we’ve had a couple of both. All things being equal the average steroid suspension has probably been nine months and the average marijuana suspension six months. So it’s (a typical marijuana suspension) is two-thirds of a steroid one. You are not going to hit your opponent harder if you take it, which is the concern with steroids. The point is that it can have a debilitative effect on the athlete that’s using it and could even have a performance enhancing effect in that it can be pain deadening” Mr. Kizer said.

Check back with InsideFighting for more news as it develops.

*This article as it was originally published quoted Mr. Kizer as saying that the level of marijuana per millimeter that the Nevada State Athletic Commission tests for is 55 nanograms. InsideFighting received a voicemail message back from Mr. Kizer today correcting that the number is in fact 50 nanograms. We apologize for the mistake.


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