This is possibly the smartest thing Nick Diaz has done throughout his entire mixed martial arts career.
By "this" of course, I am referring to Diaz's hiring of Las Vegas attorney Ross Goodman to handle his suspension for testing positive for marijuana metabolites following his UFC 143 bout with Carlos Condit.
Goodman filed a response to the suspension with the Nevada commission on Monday afternoon. In the response, Goodman notes that Diaz tested positive for marijuana metabolites and not actual marijuana, thus he cannot be suspended because marijuana metabolites are not a banned substance. As he told ESPN.com after filing the response:
The basis to discipline Mr. Diaz is that he tested positive for a prohibited substance. We know he didn't test positive for marijuana. So, you look to see at WADA whether marijuana metabolites are prohibited. They do not prohibit it in any category.
Goodman said that Diaz tested positive for THC-Carboxylic Acid, which is a non-active marijuana metabolite.
"You have to test positive for marijuana, as opposed to this inactive ingredient Nick did. If there's nothing in the rules prohibiting marijuana metabolites, why are we here?"
Goodman's argument follows the exact line of thinking that Vancouver Athletic Commissioner Jonathan Tweedale laid out in a column last week.
That cannabinoid metabolites are found in a fighter's sample is consistent with the fighter ceasing to use a month before, a week before, or a day in advance of the contest. Heavy users have been documented as testing positive over 46 days after the most recent use. (See, e.g., Ellis GM, Maun MA, Judson BA, et al. Excretion patterns of cannabinoid metabolites after last use in a group of chronic users. Clin Pharmacol Ther 1986;38:572-578; and Smith-Kielland A, Skuterud B, Morland J. Urinary excretion of 11-nor-9-carboxy-delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabinoids in frequent and infrequent drug users. J Anal Toxicol 1999; 23:323-332.) None of these time periods are instances of use "before or during" the contest - as the psychoactive and physiological effects of marijuana would no longer be in effect.
Accordingly, if the Nevada Athletic Commission's only basis for issuing a complaint against Nick Diaz is metabolites revealed by urinalysis of a sample collected on fight night, then it is unlikely the Commission has sufficient evidence to prove a violation under a Principled Interpretation of its regulations.
Even if the interpretation of Nevada's regulation mandated by the Principled Interpretation is mistaken, the rationale-based analysis is still intact. Any disciplinary action levied against Mr. Diaz would have no rational basis in the principles underlying a defensible anti-doping regime unless there is evidence Mr. Diaz was under the effects of marijuana on fight night.
From a legal perspective, Diaz and Goodman appear to have an airtight case. The Nevada State Athletic Commission simply cannot ban Diaz if he merely tested positive for inactive marijuana metabolites because they are not a banned substance.
Perhaps we'll get to see that rematch between Diaz and Carlos Condit this summer, after all.