By: Jesse Donathan
We don’t have to wait decades to debate whether Jon Jones is the greatest fighter to ever live, that argument is alive and well at this very moment and has been the subject of debate for some years now. Without question, Jones is one of the most spectacular talents the sport has ever seen. Jones is an electrifying fighter, someone with the ability to strike with the best strikers and to the surprise of many, even wrestle with the best wrestlers. Jon Jones is a prodigy, but unfortunately a prodigy whose legacy will forever be marred with accusations of performance enhancing drug use – cheating!
In a January 24, 2019 MMA Fighting article titled, “Alexander Gustafsson’s team says Jon Jones has “essentially received a ‘use exemption’ after UFC 232 positive drug test”. It was reported that Jon Jones, to nobodies surprise I might add, has once again tested positive for the banned substance Turinabol.
“MMA Fighting reported Wednesday that Jones tested positive for trace amounts of a long term metabolite of oral Turinabol in a Dec. 28 sample collected by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA) on the day of UFC 232’s weigh-ins. The VADA test results discovered that Jones had 33 picograms in his system of the same M3 long term metabolite that was found in Jones’ system in three separate drug tests from August 2018 to early December, including a Dec. 9 drug test which prompted the UFC to uproot UFC 232’s entire event from Nevada to California on less than a week’s notice.”
In a January 25, 2019 Bad Guy Inc. YouTube video titled, “When did a failed drug test, stop being a ‘failed drug test’?” current Bellator fighter and ESPN analyst Chael Sonnen weighed in on the issue, stating:
“But now the question comes down to how three agencies test him all in the same night and two of them missed it. I’m a little confused how there isn’t a spotlight and a question mark on how USADA, with an 11-million-dollar yearly budget missed it on the same night that California, who then submitted it to the WADA lab at UCLA missed it but VADA who collected the sample on the same night, submitted it to the same lab caught it.”
Rather curiously, what Sonnen is referring to Jones’s December 29, 2019 fight night test administered by the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) and the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) where Jon Jones’s test results came back completely devoid of any illegal performance enhancing drugs in his system. So, in summary Jones went from failing his Dec. 9th test for Turinabol, 60 picograms worth according to TSN UFC content editor Aaron Bronsteter to passing a December 29th test administered by the CSAC and USADA but failing the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) test, at 33 picograms of Turinabol; all of which were administered on the same night and sent to the exact same World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) laboratory. Sonnen is absolutely correct to suggest a spotlight should put on these contradictory test results, what exactly is going on here?
In Sonnen’s estimation, “Let’s just get to the conclusion right off the bat. The conclusion is they are correct, they are correct in their analysis and determination that Jon Jones is having residue, he is having left over trace amounts from a substance of which he was already punished for. That is true. And they are right to also conclude that there was no re-ingestion.”
While I am sure there is some highly paid “expert” currently pouring through his medical texts and scientific journals in an effort to contrive some cockamamie explanation as to why two of the three regulatory bodies missed the illegal, banned substance in Jones’s system its instances like these where a zero-tolerance policy across the board would go along way in quelling any suggestions or appearances of impropriety among the regulatory bodies ranks.
Jones has a long history with illegal performance enhancing drug use in his professional mixed martial arts career. According to a January 10, 2019 MMA Fighting article by Shaun Al-Shatti titled, “Jon Jones’ UFC 232 drug tests come back clean” Jones is no stranger to running afoul of the regulatory commissions.
“Jones, 31, is a two-time offender of the USADA testing program, having failed drug tests in both 2016 and 2017 in relation to fights against Daniel Cormier. Jones first tested positive for clomiphene, an anti-estrogenic substance, and letrozole, an aromatase inhibitor, in July 2016 just days out from his scheduled UFC 200 fight against Cormier. He then tested positive for the anabolic agent oral Turinabol in a July 2017 test administered the day before his UFC 214 rematch against Cormier. Jones defeated Cormier via third-round knockout, however the result was subsequently overturned into a no contest.”
Fighters popping positive for performance enhancing drugs is nothing new, even under the USADA era of the UFC fighters are still testing positive for a litany of banned substances on a regular basis. The anti-doping measures undertaken by the UFC were always a feel-good measure, an attempt to treat a bullet wound with a band-aid. It was an effort to add further legitimacy to the sport in the eyes of the public, while refusing to recognize the inherent culture within not only mixed martial arts, but combat sports themselves, where people’s health and thus future depend on being as physically fit and prepared as possible for the realities and rigors of combat sports.
When the sports top draws, the biggest stars in the game, revenue shakers and money makers start succumbing to the feel-good measures put in place for aesthetic purposes only the bottom line starts to suffer. When the bottom line starts to suffer, the problems are quickly identified and solutions are found. In this case, the problem was the one of the organizations best fighters is perpetually testing positive for illegal, banned substances. The solution was to find scientific experts who were able to explain away the repeated positive tests so that the show can go on.
At UFC 232, the show could not go on in Nevada due to Jones’s atypical test result which the NSAC refused to sanction so they moved the circus to California. Here we are, weeks later and the specter of the outer limits known as UFC 232 is still in our peripheral vision. Something has to give, either a zero-tolerance policy needs to be adopted or the entire performance enhancing drug paradigm needs to be re-evaluated. The current model is leaving more questions than answers and, in a sport, where legitimacy has been a long fought, hard battle the question of impropriety in combat sports still remains.