Watch above interview with Elias Theodorou
History has been made! Elias “The Spartan” Theodorou will go down in MMA history as many things; TUF Nations: Canada vs Australia winner, top tier ranked UFC veteran, and now, the pioneer and trailblazer intertwining the paths and legalities of medical cannabis within professional sports. The British Colombian fighter has become the first professional athlete in sports history with a therapeutic usage exemption (TUE) for medicinal cannabis.
With cannabis erupting onto the medical scene of combat sports in the form of the cannabinoid, CBD in recent years, the stigma behind cannabis has lightened up drastically. Being utilized as a natural alternative for a plethora of ailments, including anti inflammation properties, anxiety, and so much more…CBD was eventually removed from the prohibited substance list For athletes. However, with some CBD companies still having trace amounts of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol, the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis and banned in competition), fighters toed a thin line to make sure to fly under the THC radar when it came time for the necessary drug test.
However, with Theodorou’s medical use exemption was granted via the British Colombia Athletic Commission after they examined his medical history and determined that the highly decorated Theodorou indeed fits the medical criteria for the exemption. After years of an uphill battle with USADA applying and being denied several times while competing under the UFC banner, the British Colombian athlete can finally breathe easy (in Canada for now) to utilize his doctor prescribed medicine. Although many other athletic commissions have yet to follow suit…when there’s smoke, there tends to be fire, and with cannabis being research at an all time high. The future is looking bright for other cannabis patients in professional sports.
Days after the news broke, Theodorou talked to MyMMANews reporter/MyMMArijuanaCHRONICles host, Adam Crist to discuss the hard years of work to get to where he stands today.
Theodorou fancies his preparation leading into his therapeutic use exemption being similar to a the rigorous ups and downs of a fight camp, stating:
“That’s exactly it, a long road with a lot just like getting ready for a fight. There’s a preparation that builds towards it. That’s what I did in regards to my medical cannabis process. It involved many different aspects of just being a patient and talking to my doctor…(corrects himself) doctors, actually! Because, again, the process was not even necessarily the TUE that I got here but the TUE I applied for in the UFC through WADA (World Anti Doping Agency). So, All in all it’s been about a 4-5 year process to this point but you know, anything worth doing takes a long time.
Theodorou was diagnosed with “bilateral neuropathic pain, which is essentially nerve damage of my upper extremities” as he describes, making it difficult to compete on a “level playing field” in competition without his medicine. At a particular point, “USADA (United States Anti Doping Agency) wanted me to take anti-depressants to numb my pain.” As he recalls never needing cannabis for depression.
Needless to say, the shoe didn’t fit, and his frustration started to boil. With doping agencies suggesting he take every possible route around utilizing medical cannabis. Suggesting the fighter exhaust all other options outside of his doctor prescribed cannabis, before returning to cannabis as an option.
“It’s a backward mindset that I’m determined to fight!”, he boldly says. “When you find something in medicine that works, you use it.”
Working under the direct care of his family doctors for years now, “Cannabis is the only thing that works for me!” Theodorou says adamantly. “More so, not only in addition to the alternative medicines in the capacity that they don’t work as well, but also the side effects. You’ve got to remember that being forced to take pills, especially the kind of pills that have the side effects of indigestion, bloating, weight gain…Again, I have to cut weight and the fact that a medicine that is being told that I need to take will actually have these side effects, puts me at a competitive disadvantage because I’m not able to compete at a level playing field. Another athlete that can use for instance, opioids, would be able to use that and be fine. Where as me, not being able to use my own medicine, again, puts me at a competitive disadvantage.”
Further delving into the medical prejudice against cannabis patients saying, “More so again, kind of a broader term of this is, is medical equality! It’s not even necessarily about cannabis. Other athletes could be on Percocets and it wouldn’t be an issue. There’s many different opioids that they can be on, where they wouldn’t have a penalty for just it being in their system. That’s where my underline case essentially comes from.“
With the news being so fresh, only time will tell what the future holds for cannabis in regards to professional sports, worldwide and how doping agencies will go about fine tuning their view on what they view as performance enhancing drugs and their views in medical cannabis. With cannabis research and it’s medical usage booming, the progress behind the plant as a natural non-performance enhancing remedy is only cultivating like a well pruned Northern Lights plant.
His heart is pure and his mission statement is simple: “Keep my fight not only inside the cage but out, for medical equality every single place and every single jurisdiction that I fight for moving forward!”
Tune in for the full interview above as Elias “The Spartan” Theodorou and MyMMarijuanaChronicles have an in depth conversation about his TUE for medical cannabis.
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Currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Wilmington University, Adam’s passion for the sport only grows stronger when a fighter’s voice can be heard. He thrives on asking detailed questions to inspire the thoughts behind the punches in hopes that each fighter can find their proper justice. Specializing in pre and post fight interviews for MyMMANews, Adam strives to keep the fight fans up to speed with the most recent and authentic MMA news possible.
He is Co-promoter of Delaware’s premier kick-boxing and Muay Thai organization, IBF Promotions. Recently he has also accompanied MMA organizations Global Proving Ground and XCC as Co-host and ringside commentator.