UFC Removes Cannabis From Banned Substances List

January 3, 2024 · Ganjapreneur

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has taken a significant step in sports health and safety by formally removing marijuana from its list of banned substances for athletes, setting a progressive example in the realm of professional sports.

The UFC’s decision to exclude cannabis from its prohibited substances is an extension of its earlier reform in 2021, which protected fighters from being penalized for testing positive for THC. The revised anti-doping policy aims to align with the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) list, yet it notably deviates by excluding marijuana, reflecting a more nuanced approach to substance regulation in sports.

In a press statement, UFC Chief Business Officer Hunter Campbell highlighted the organization’s ambition to lead with the “most effective and progressive anti-doping program in all of professional sports.” The policy, which came into effect on December 31, is part of UFC’s broader effort to ensure a fair and safe competitive environment. This initiative also includes a new partnership with Drug Free Sport International for sample collection and shipping, further solidifying UFC’s commitment to athlete health and performance integrity.

Jeff Novitzky, UFC Senior Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance, emphasized that the updated anti-doping program is the culmination of extensive input and trial, signifying an ongoing commitment to evolve based on scientific evidence and athlete welfare. The move is seen as a significant stride in acknowledging the changing societal and scientific perspectives on marijuana use and its implications for athletes.

The UFC’s policy shift mirrors a broader trend in sports organizations reevaluating their stance on marijuana amidst a growing legalization movement. Several entities have recently adjusted their drug policies to be more accommodating of cannabis use in the past few years, including the NCAANBA, and NFL, among others.

State sports regulators and other organizations like the New York Media Softball League have also adapted their approaches, reflecting a shift in recognizing the potential therapeutic benefits and reduced stigma surrounding marijuana. These changes in the sports world align with a broader societal shift toward more progressive views on cannabis, particularly given its legal status in various jurisdictions.

However, despite these evolving perspectives, the World Anti-Doping Agency continues to maintain a ban on cannabis, citing concerns about the “spirit of sport” and athlete role modeling. This stance has drawn criticism, particularly in the wake of high-profile cases like U.S. runner Sha’Carri Richardson’s Olympic suspension for a positive THC test. The case spurred a widespread call for policy reform, including from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the White House, and congressional lawmakers, highlighting a growing consensus that international rules on marijuana need to be reconsidered to reflect contemporary understanding and attitudes toward the substance. (Full Story)

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