Elias Theodorou becomes first MMA fighter to receive TUE exemption for medical cannabis

Elias Theodorou | Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Elias Theodorou has received his long sought-after exemption.

Theodorou’s management firm, Paradigm Sports Management, on Tuesday released a statement announcing the former UFC fighter has made history by becoming the first MMA fighter to receive a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) for medical cannabis. The 31-year-old Canadian was granted the TUE by the British Columbia Athletic Commission.

Per the statement, Theodorou’s exemption allows him “to continue his doctor-prescribed use of medicinal cannabis and protects him from penalty if he tests above the previous threshold for in-competition use. He will follow the guidelines provided by the athletic commission regarding fight-week medical use.”

Theodorou (17-3) gained notoriety after winning “The Ultimate Fighter: Nations in 2014. He then went on an 8-3 run with the company that ended last year when he was released following a unanimous decision loss to Derek Brunson in May 2019. He would later compete in December at a PFC show in Windsor, Ontario, defeating Hernani Perpetuo by third-round TKO.

Theodorou is a staunch advocate for medicinal cannabis and believes it benefits fighters in ways that traditional pharmaceuticals don’t. He repeatedly attempted to get a TUE while under contract with the UFC, but the promotion’s anti-doping partner, U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), denied his applications.

“What I’m trying to do in regards to medical cannabis is provide an alternative option for myself,” Theodorou said in an October 2018 interview with TSN. “This is a very individual aspect in regards to my personal medication and it’s doctor prescribed—my doctor feels that cannabis is right for me and, as part of the process, I’ve had to exhaust all other first-line medicines, whether opioids or other types of painkillers and the side effects have been just as bad, if not worse, than the actual ailment that I have.”

In competition, most cannabinoids are prohibited; however, the WADA added cannabidiol (CBD) to its exemption list in 2019.

Now that he’s received approval from the BCAC, Theodorou is determined to keep advancing on this front.

“I am grateful both as a patient and an athlete for the approval of my medical cannabis TUE by the BC Athletic Commission, recognizing my fundamental Canadian right to medicate as prescribed by my medical doctor,” Theodorou said in the statement. “I remain committed to fighting the negative stigma of medical cannabis, not only for myself but for all athletes.”

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