(You know who had that look in his eyes? Chris Benoit.)
Dave Herman’s recent failed pre-fight drug test and subsequent removal from his bout with Mike Russow has sparked debate across the web in regards to marijuana’s power (or lack thereof) as a performance enhancing drug. Some are saying Herman should have been pulled from the fight based on the illegality of the drug alone, a tough issue to deny. However, several studies have shown that certain strands of marijuana can provide a healing effect to the nervous system and could dramatically expedite the healing process of inflamed joints, which could prove incredibly beneficial to someone in the fight game.
Annie Appleseed Project, an alternative treatment foundation, has furthered research on the healing effect of marijuana, particularly to that of damaged nerves. They concluded that marijuana, in fact, can aid the nervous system beyond that of even morphine. Andrew Rice, a senior lecturer in pain at London’s Imperial College, had the following to say about marijuana’s ability to rehabilitate:
It’s known that if you injure a nerve, the morphine receptors in the spinal cord disappear and that’s probably why morphine isn’t a very effective pain killer for such conditions as shingles, people who have had an amputation or perhaps if cancer has invaded the spinal cord…But what we’ve shown is that the cannabinoid receptors do not disappear when you injure a nerve. So this could offer a therapeutic advantage over morphine for treating such pain.
There is no doubt of the possible benefits marijuana could provide an injured fighter, and with the ever increasingly legality of medical marijuana, why should those who sacrifice their bodies for a living be denied a possible means of rehabilitation? Now, I want to make something clear, I am not saying that painkillers should be legalized across the board based solely on the fact that they can aid the healing process. But unlike other forms of painkillers, marijuana does not mask the pain completely, it rather helps speed up the healing process while providing minor stress relief. Another issue, though perhaps a fickle one, is that of cost. Struggling fighters often cannot afford the necessary treatment to rehab their injuries, and could turn to marijuana as a financially reasonable means of aiding any nagging afflictions.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission, responsible for the decision in the infamous Nick Diaz/Takanori Gomi debacle, was one of the first to put forth the sentiment that marijuana was considered a performance enhancer. NSAC Executive Director Keith Kizer, when questioned about the issue immediately following the incident, had this to say:
The main issue with marijuana is it slows the reflexes, putting the fighter at much greater risk. We would not let a fighter compete who is coming off arm surgery and has not fully recovered his reflexes, or who is under the influence of alcohol because of the same issue. Additionally, it may also deaden some pain. That could hurt the fighter… he may not tap out when he should and he suffers broken bones or torn ligaments as a result… or that could unfairly help him if he can trade punches more easily with his opponent.
Herein lies the issue; can marijuana significantly alter a fighter’s performance on the same level as a true PED like steroids, or should fighters that test positive for the substance be given a lighter sentence? And if marijuana were legally allowed for rehabilitative purposes, what kind of restrictions would have to be instilled (ie. time a fighter would be allowed to consume marijuana before a given fight) in order to ensure the fighter’s safety?
I ask you, Potato Nation, to stake your claim on the issue in the comments section, using as much profane language as necessary, of course.