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Athletic commission suspends Nick Diaz, clears Chael Sonnen to fight

Diaz suspended for a year and fined $60,000 for failed drug test

UFC 143 Workouts

Leila Navidi

Nick Diaz spars during open workouts for UFC 143 at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012.

The Nevada State Athletic Commission handed down rulings involving two of the UFC’s most well-known fighters at a meeting Monday.

The commission granted top middleweight contender Chael Sonnen permission to use testosterone with a therapeutic-use exemption. The decision cleared a regulatory issue to make Sonnen’s upcoming championship bout with Anderson Silva, scheduled for July 7 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, official.

Former top welterweight contender Nick Diaz won’t fight for at least seven months after Sonnen’s next bout. Diaz was suspended for a year — retroactive to Feb. 4, when he dropped a unanimous decision to Carlos Condit at UFC 143 — after testing positive for marijuana metabolites.

“I am concerned with anyone who uses drugs of this nature in the state of Nevada,” Commission Chairman Skip Avansino said in rendering his decision. “I am mostly concerned about using marijuana to focus in your training and then fight in Nevada.”

Diaz’s lawyer, Ross Goodman, presented a compelling case for more than three hours to make his case.

Diaz is legally allowed to smoke marijuana in his home state of California, because of a doctor’s recommendation to treat his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Diaz said he failed to alert the commission of his marijuana use because he considered it neither a prescription nor a “serious medical condition.”

Goodman argued NSAC rules only prevented a fighter from smoking marijuana in competition. Diaz ceased from using the drug eight days before UFC 143, which Goodman categorized as out of competition.

The scant amounts of inactive metabolites found in Diaz’s system, according to Goodman, proved as much. Dr. John Hiatt, a medical expert in the area, testified in support of the claim.

“The only drug at issue here that’s prohibited is marijuana in competition,” Goodman said. “And there is no evidence that marijuana metabolite is a prohibited substance. There is no evidence of anyone using marijuana except for out of competition.”

But several factors played against Diaz. Another medical expert, Dr. Timothy Trainor, said the levels made it impossible to pinpoint when Diaz last used the drug.

NSAC Executive Director Keith Kizer detailed difficulties in getting Diaz to submit a drug test after the Condit fight and a UFC 137 win against B.J. Penn last year. Kizer said he believed Diaz attempted to dilute his urine sample on both occasions.

Nevada Deputy Attorney Chris Eccles also provided a questionnaire from a 2011 bout in California where Diaz listed marijuana under prescriptions, discounting the fighter’s assertion that he thought he didn’t have to report the drug.

“I was never under the understanding that I needed to apply for an exemption or I would have to worry about it on account of not testing positive in my previous fights since 2007,” Diaz said.

The severity of Diaz’s punishment was increased because it was his second offense. He previously tested positive for marijuana five years ago after beating Takanori Gomi at a PRIDE event at the Thomas & Mack Center and swore to the commission it wouldn’t happen again.

Diaz also loses 30 percent of his reported UFC 143 purse, which equates to $60,000. Money received from sponsors, discretionary bonuses and pay-per-view cuts are not subjected to the fine.

Sonnen’s agenda item proved far less complicated. Although the commission asked Sonnen to clarify and detail his history and problems with low testosterone, it found no reason to go against their doctor’s seal of approval.

“It does appear he’s being treated appropriately at this point,” Trainor said.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at

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