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In a significant step toward reevaluating drug use among athletes, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) announced the removal of cannabis from its banned substances list.
Understanding the UFC’s Decision
UFC’s decision to exclude cannabis from its prohibited substances list sets a progressive example in the professional sports realm – and it’s not the first time the UFC has initiated such strides. This reform extends UFC’s decision to protect fighters from penalization for testing positive for THC. It also represents the organization’s continued contribution to a conversation about health and safety not only in combat sports but in professional leagues across the globe.
“UFC’s goal for the Anti-Doping Policy is to be the best, most effective, and most progressive anti-doping program in all of professional sports,” said Hunter Campbell, UFC Chief Business Officer in a press statement released on Dec. 28, 2023. “UFC is proud of the advancements we have made with our anti-doping program over the past eight years, and we will continue to maintain an independently administered drug-testing program that ensures all UFC athletes are competing under fair and equal circumstances.
According to this press release, the updated anti-doping program comes after significant testing and feedback. Thus, by excluding cannabis from their banned substances list, the UFC demonstrates a commitment toward both scientific evidence and the health and safety of their athletes.
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Shifting the Stigma
This change indicates a shift against cannabis as a performance-enhancing drug – and deviates from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which maintains a ban on marijuana use by athletes.
The reform is also a notable stride in acknowledging the changing stigma around cannabis, both from a societal perspective and in medical research. After high-profile cases like Sha-Carri Richardson’s Olympic suspension for a positive THC test gained publicity, cannabis advocates – including those in the White House and U.S. Anti-Doping Agency – have called for widespread policy reform and restructuring of global cannabis policy in sports.
Overall, the UFC’s commitment to reform underscores a growing agreement that international regulations concerning marijuana should be reconsidered to better align with contemporary understanding and attitudes toward the substance.
And they’re not alone. This policy reform follows a broader trend of larger sports entities reevaluating their stance on cannabis use by athletes. Organizations such as the NBA, NCAA, and NFL have recently adjusted their drug use policies to be more accepting of cannabis consumption by athletes.