After being dragged into the murky waters where marijuana legalization and mixed martial arts regulation intersect, Cynthia Calvillo is understandably frustrated.
“I really didn’t think I was doing anything wrong,” Calvillo said on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “I’m not trying to be a rebel, just, I don’t know. It just really, really sucks that I’m in this position right now.”
The UFC strawweight prospect from Sacramento, Calif., who holds a medical marijuana card in California, where cannabis is legal for both medicinal and recreational purposes, fought at UFC 219 in Las Vegas, Nev. — a state where the drug is also legal for both purposes.
But cannabis remains on the prohibited list for fighters during the in-competition period under the WADA Code, and she tested positive above the permissible thresholds for marijuana metabolites in her loss to Carla Esparza on Dec. 30. Calvillo received a nine-month suspension from the Nevada Athletic Commission retroactive to the fight date — a longer sentence than the six months previously handed out by USADA — and was fined 15 percent of her purse.
“They say you have to be literally pretty super, super high in order to test positive the day of the fight,” Calvillo said. “There’s no way in hell I smoked or took any cannabis the week of my fight at all. Let alone the day of my fight.”
And that’s the heart of what Calvillo finds unfair about the process. The Team Alpha Male competitor said she last used cannabis on Christmas Eve, nearly a week out from the fight, and that she did so with guidance from the authorities that suggested that usage during that window was OK.
“They tell us, like, they’re comfortable about how much time you would need to be cleared for in-competition testing,” Calvillo said. “The last time I had consumed cannabis was on Christmas Eve, which was the week of the fight. I usually use it for sleeping, I use it for inflammation, I have had my medical card for over two years. It’s something I’ve used especially because I had an injury where I broke arm my three times in a row, and so I use it for the medical component and cannabis, CBD does help heal your bones. I was also having trouble sleeping for a long time [and it’s] better than using over-the counter stuff.
“It’s something that I discussed with [UFC vice president of athlete health and performance] Jeff Novitzky before, even once I got into the UFC in terms of the usage of marijuana. So I’ve done this safely every single fight, I’ve been tested every day the day of my fight and it’s never been an issue before.”
Calvillo was in the process of lining up a fight against Michelle Waterson when the news broke that she had failed the in-competition test. With the benefit of hindsight, she believes that had she not been lulled into a false sense of security, she wouldn’t have approached things the way she did.
“It just really sucks,” Calvillo said. “If there was chance, if they didn’t make me feel so comfortable about it, and there was a chance I would test that high, and fail my test, I wouldn’t even have done it. I train so hard, I’ve had the success that I have, forget about weed, if they told me I need to not be doing this at all just to make sure it doesn’t happen, then I would follow it. I would make sure it would happen. But I really didn’t think I was doing anything wrong.”
Then there was the matter of Nevada. The NAC has long taken curious and at times contradictory stances toward cannabis. The board infamously suspended Nick Diaz for five years for a weed infraction, which was later reduced in a settlement. Current chairman Anthony Marnell III personally profits from dispensaries in the Silver State. Yet the board went ahead and slapped Calvillo with a longer suspension than USADA handed out.
“I’m the least person you need to worry about,” Calvillo said. “The Nevada commission has fined people six months for (PEDs) but they’re suspending me nine months for cannabis, which is something I use for sleeping or inflammation which is not going to hurt me or my body and not hurt any opponent. … It’s legal there, there are a lot of people in the commission who are involved in dispensaries and in the business, so it just kinda sucks.”
Calvillo said she believes she lost her sponsorship with the sports drink Body Armor, a UFC sponsor, due to the failed drug test for marijuana. A spokesperson for Body Armor told MMA Fighting that Calvillo is no longer sponsored by the company, though would not say the reason why.
“While we don’t comment on specifics of any of our athlete partnership agreements — we can confirm that Cynthia is no longer a BODYARMOR spokesperson and we wish her all the best,” the spokesperson said in an e-mail.
There’s not much left for Calvillo to do at this point but bide her time, as a formal appeal would likely just drag the process out longer.
“I have to deal with this shit,” Calvillo said. “I was hoping, I was ready to go. I was ready to fight, like I said two weeks when I got the news I was ready to sign my contract to get my next fight going. For me, I dwell on it a little bit, not even then, it feels bad but then motivates me to get straight back to work. It’s kind of like, the fact, right now, too, I was really bummed out when I found out they gave me my nine month suspension, but, it’s like, the show must go on, I’m going continue training and stay busy and hopefully these next six months will pass I’ll back come back stronger than before. Any other time I’ve ever had to be held down and held back I’ve always come back strongly. I just feel bad for whoever I have to fight next.”