Cannabis has long been a banned substance in just about every sport, but that may be about to change. The world of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is scrutinized by millions of fans every fight, and among the stars is one Elias Theodorou. A former massive name in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Theodorou – known to fans as The Spartanhas become the first professional athlete to be sanctioned to use cannabis.

What does this mean? Put simply, it means he can use the substance for medicinal use. He has fought for a long time to be allowed to take products that contain THC – the psychoactive element of cannabis – and the decision may have a major impact on sport and athletes in other sports in the USA and across the world. 

How Theodorou Got an Exemption

Cannabis is usually ingested by way of a cannabis oil dab pen which is the simplest way to take it, and in Theodorous case it will be replacing drugs he has been taking to help with an injury that has further implications. Colossal damage to his left hand in an accident left Theodorou with nerve damage in the arm, an area of medicine that cannabis has been shown to help with. His case was based entirely around this condition, and he has been passed by the British Columbia Athletic Commission to legally use the substance in training and preparation without being penalized or barred.

About the decision Theodorou said:

It wasnt until I was a free agent that I could continue being an agent of change for cannabis in athletics. Thats when I applied for the therapeutic use exemption.” 

Theodorou is no longer a member of the UFC, hence the free agent reference. He went on to explain:

Then factor in what I do—a lot of punching and kicking. Wear-and-tear and damage both as patient and athlete compounds. Cannabis works best as a form of pain management, especially compared to the first-line alternatives. What Im trying to strive for is an even playing field. Anyone with the same kind of injury would be able to take a handful of Vicodin to go and fight and it wouldnt be an issue but a joint or a vape session a week or two earlier could get someone suspended for months.”

What This Means for Sport 

While the legality of cannabis is still in conversation in some states and countries of the world there is little doubt that many more will open up to its use both medicinally and recreationally. Notably, Theodorou fought his first bout since the start of the coronavirus pandemic after switching to CBD products immediately beforehand. He explained why:

I believe in clean sport and in transparency, so Ill be switching to CBD, essentially moving away from the psychoactive component into more anti-inflammatory components during the latter part of my training.” CBD products can have only trace quantities of THC if they are to be sold legally in the USA. 

So as sport resumes after the pandemic not only in the USA but across the world the subject of cannabis use is now intrinsically linked with medicine for athletes, at least in Canada where Theodorou has begun fighting again. It remains to be seen whether other athletes will take up this approach and use his successful campaign to begin their own, but there is no doubt that the Canadian fighting star is overjoyed with his success. Well leave the last words to Theodorou:

I couldnt be more excited that this is actually coming to fruition. I cant wait to knock cannabis off the prohibited list, but also to knock out my opponent.”