Nick Diaz hearing & punishment reveal more wrong with commission than fighter

On Monday, the Nevada State Athletic Commission handed down a hefty fine and five-year suspension to Nick Diaz for testing positive for marijuana before his Jan. 31 middleweight fight against Anderson Silva.

Well, sort of.

Diaz was tested three times the night of that fight: twice before the bout, and once afterward. He passed the first (conducted at 7:12 p.m.) and third tests (conducted at 11:55), which were administered by a World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited laboratory. 

The second test, administered at 10:38, was handled by a non-WADA-accredited company. Diaz’s lawyer did a good job pointing out the obvious problem with the commission using two testing companies, each with different standards and accreditations. The tests produced vastly different results over a very short period of time, with only one supporting the idea that Diaz was, in fact, guilty of violating Nevada’s drug competition drug policies.

Diaz’s marijuana metabolite levels on Jan. 31 were as follows: at 7:12 he passed with a 48.73 ng/ml level. At 10:38 he failed with a 733.23 ng/ml level.

Then, about an hour later, he passed the third test with a 61.04 ng/ml level. The first and third test results, both administered by a WADA-accredited lab and which Diaz passed, are consistent.

It is only the middle test, administered by the non-WADA lab, that he supposedly failed. Is it significant that the non-WADA lab came back with the outlier result?

Why did Nevada choose to take the extraordinary steps of testing Diaz three times in a matter of hours, only to effectively use different standards for the tests? Is it reasonable to believe that Diaz smoked marijuana after 7:12 and before 10:38, then somehow un-smoked between 10:38 and 11:55?

These questions all essentially were posed during Diaz’s hearing in front of the NSAC, and are good ones that the commission, not restricted in their hearings by usual and proper legal proceeding standards, effectively refused to consider. Of course, that was not surprising since exonerating Diaz would have meant admitting that they messed up in their testing protocol.

So, Diaz was suspended because he tested positive for banned levels of marijuana metabolites in his system Jan. 31.


Let’s act for a moment as if the NSAC had done a consistent and unimpeachable job of testing Diaz and the rest of the UFC 183 card last winter. Let’s assume that Diaz did indeed have more weed in his system than is allowed, as he’s twice before been busted for doing.

He received a five-year suspension for it. Nick Diaz received a five-year suspension for marijuana a couple of weeks after his opponent that night, Silva, received a one-year suspension for repeatedly testing positive for steroids.

In fact, Silva tested positive for steroids during his training camp for the Diaz fight, but still was allowed to step into the cage and repeatedly hit his opponent with his enhanced body. 

Diaz was given a five-year suspension for marijuana nine months or so after Jon Jones tested positive for cocaine during his last training camp. Jones still was allowed to fight Daniel Cormier, and then given no punishment at all by the commission. Diaz essentially was barred from making a living in the UFC for five years, a little more than a year after the NSAC licensed Vitor Belfort — a repeated PED offender who ignored a previous suspension by the commission, and then hid from real sanctioning for years — to fight in a lucrative title bout against Chris Weidman.

Diaz was suspended five years for marijuana less than two years after repeated steroid offender Josh Barnett was licensed by them. A big condition of Barnett’s license was that he be subject to random WADA-certified drug testing (Nevada uses WADA as a standard for trusted drug testing, but when Diaz passed two WADA-certified tests, a third test with different standards was the one used to determine his guilt).

It is important to remember that because states respect one another’s suspensions (as does the UFC, typically), Nevada’s commission ruling Monday means that unless the UFC releases Diaz to fight abroad, or he wins promised legal appeals, he won’t be able to fight again until 2020.

At 32 years of age, and in the 14th year of his professional MMA career, five years is essentially a career death sentence for Diaz. The fighter was despondent afterward while talking to our Heidi Fang.

"They’ve deprived me of not just of money now, but the right to stand up for not only what I believe in, but for my little brother," he said, referring to UFC lightweight Nate Diaz, whose corner Nick likely will not be allowed in for his upcoming fight against Michael Johnson.

"I can’t even go and help my little brother."

Serious consequences and punishments should be meted out only as a result of fair proceedings dictated by consistent guidelines. Nevada’s testing protocols are all over the place, producing very different results for the same fighters on the same days.

That’s a problem of process, and as a nation of laws, there are few things more important than proper process in disciplinary and criminal proceedings.

More than that, even if we accept the commission’s hodge-podge process, Nevada’s punishments also are inconsistent to an alarming point. The world’s most important athletic commission is establishing an erratic reputation by handing out drug punishments that swing wildly from lenient to severe, seemingly without a sense of proportionate danger posed to the athletes involved for different offenses.

Perhaps Nick Diaz shouldn’t be fighting with any marijuana metabolites in his system, ever, even though a certain level is allowed. Maybe he has a problem with marijuana.

Or, perhaps he just has problems that are helped by marijuana. That may be why he has legal prescriptions to use it in his home state of California.

I can’t be sure one way or another on those subjects. However, I am sure there is a certain and much greater structural wrong being done when the world’s most influential commission treats marijuana use more harshly than it treats cocaine or steroids.