By: Jesse Donathan
Incredibly, Jon Jones was licensed to fight at UFC 235 despite failing his NSAC prescribed drug test, testing positive once again for picograms of a metabolite associated with the banned performance enhancing drug Turinabol leading up to his successful title defense Saturday night against challenger Anthony Smith. According to a February 28, 2019 sherdog.com article titled, “Jon Jones cleared for UFC 235 despite adverse findings in drug tests” author Jay Pettry writes, “Jones has been tested six times since the beginning of February. Two of those tests did find 20 and 40 picogram/milliliter levels of (DHCMT M3) metabolites from (the) banned substance Turinabol, which have been found repeatedly in his system since his positive test in 2017.” Pettry would go on to quote Dr. Daniel Eichner of the Sports Medicine and Research Laboratory as stating, “There is no scientific or medical evidence that the athlete (Jones) would have an unfair advantage leading up to, or for, his contest scheduled on March 2, 2019” in elaborating on how it came to be that Jones was licensed despite flagged urinalysis test results.
Interestingly, Jones’s latest flagged test results of 40 picograms/milliliter levels of Turinabol metabolites is greater than his previously flagged test results of Turinabol from December, 2018. According to a fansided.com article titled, “UFC 232 VADA test results reveal steroid metabolites for Jon Jones” author Drake Riggs writes, “the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) confirmed via MMAFighting that Jones had 33 picograms of 4-chloro-18-nor-17β-hydroxymethyl,17α-methyl-5α-androst-13-en-3α-ol (M3) (or DHMCT) in his system.” For those of us who are not aware, Turinabol has a half-life of 16 hours. Google defines half-life as, “the time required for any specified property (e.g. the concentration of a substance in the body) to decrease by half.” If Jones is clean, why are his levels of Turinabol metabolites increasing when in theory his levels should be decreasing on their way to being completely expunged from his body?
According to a November 11, 2011 article title, “Detection and Mass Spectrometric characterization of novel long-term dehydrochloromethyltestosterone metabolites in human urine” featured in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology authors Tim Sobolevsky and Grigory Rodchenov write:
“Our study has shown that the metabolite M3 and, to a lesser extent, its epimer and M4 are the most long-term metabolites of DHCMT. Taking into account that I and II are reportedly detectable up to 22 days post administration [3,9] and that the relative concentration of M3 in DHCMT post administration urines is normally higher compared to I and II, the detection window of M3 could be estimated as 40–50 days, while M1, M2 and M4 are at least as valuable as I and II. An additional controlled excretion study is needed to fully evaluate the time at which novel metabolites can be detected.”
More than 50 days have passed since December 09, 2018 alone. In short, Jon Jones has essentially been given the greenlight to compete with trace amounts of Turinabol, a performance enhancing drug, in his system despite the fact there are more questions than answers surrounding his flagged urinalysis results. For all we know, Jones has the right people behind him to mask the Turinabol in his system to nearly undetectable levels and that is what we are repeatedly seeing in the flagged test results. Yet Jones is given the benefit of the doubt and cleared to compete anyway despite being a habitual offender.
What the commissions, USADA and the UFC have given us is plausible deniability, theories about the presence of these metabolites in his system yet no conclusive evidence has been brought forward that Jones is not cheating beyond educated opinion. What we do have are flagged drug tests, yet Jones is given the benefit of the doubt instead of the commissions airing on the side of caution with consideration to the potential health hazards of his opponents who are putting their lives on the line based on theories, not facts, in competing against a known dirty fighter.
This is unarmed combat, not competitive dance. People have died as a result of beatings accrued in the ring and cage, yet a confirmed performance enhancing drug user is allowed to compete despite flagged test result. If anyone thinks for one second Jones isn’t being given preferential treatment because he just happens to be the best fighter we have ever seen then you are sadly mistaken. This isn’t just another athlete, its Jon Jones, the best fighter on the planet, flagged for metabolites of performance enhancing drugs, and those who count the most can’t possibly draw a correlation between the two facts? Instead, they are allowing this fighter to beat the hell out of other professional fighters who are presumably playing by the same rules in which Jones has shown such disregard for?
This is very irresponsible behavior from all parties involved and while I am not out to get Jon Jones, I am however calling it as I see it. The fact that he has been continuously licensed, despite numerous flagged tests results, is hypocritical of the commissions and absurd no matter how you want to shake a stick at it. These are unconscionable decisions from the NSAC. Either a zero-tolerance policy needs to be instituted or the entire performance enhancing drug paradigm needs to be re-evaluated. This perverted idea of fairness looks more like a green light to cheat more and more each time Jones has another test flagged for atypical results yet is still licensed to fight anyway somehow.
Interestingly, a pattern is beginning to emerge in the flagged test results from Jones. According to the Pettry article, Jones passed the tests which were administered on 02/01/19 and 02/09/19 respectively but promptly failed the administered tests on 02/14/19 and 02/15/19. Jones successfully defended his title March 2, making this latest round of failed tests occurring roughly two weeks before his scheduled fight with Anthony Smith. According to a December 29, 2018 MMAFighting.com article titled, “The science of ‘Bones’: An in-depth look at Jon Jones’ drug-test findings, why he’ll be able to fight at UFC 232” author Marc Raimondi cites information provided by Oliver Catlin, an anti-doping expert, who himself cited retired former USADA Director of Science, Dr. Larry Bowers, as stating, “In conclusion, I cannot determine with any certainty when, at what dose, or what chlorinated anabolic steroid was ingested that gave rise to the July, 2017 result,” Bowers wrote. “Based on the data provided, I conclude that no DHCMT exposure occurred between August, 2018 and December, 2018. I cannot exclude the possibility that the December 9, 2018 result arose from an exposure before July, 2017.”
Jones competed at UFC 232 on December 29, approximately three weeks out from his flagged test results on December 9. It would appear Jones is “pulsing” just weeks before his scheduled fights, but cruising right along and passing his tests with no scheduled fights in his immediate future. I would call it convenient, but my opinion is the actual truth is that Jon Jones is not clean. He is still using performance enhancing drugs and the commissions are essentially giving him the green light to compete dirty anyway. Even the vague appearance of impropriety should be enough for the commissions to avoid any such behavior, yet apparently, they are not here to protect the safety of the fighters but rather to protect the interests of the promotion which is ultimately a huge revenue generating machine for the commission themselves. There is a symbiotic relationship between these two entities where there should be clear and well-defined boundaries.
Jones (24-1) convincingly defeated the challenger Anthony Smith (31-14), shutting down the very experienced veteran in nearly every facet of the game in route to a unanimous decision victory. It was a complete shut out, though Smith can take solace in the fact he went the distance with the best fighter on the planet and wasn’t stopped even in the face of the overwhelming 14:1 betting odds against him. Despite the dominant Jones victory, I cannot help but wonder what the result would have been like if Smith had been allowed to administer 40 picograms/milliliter of Turinabol just prior to the contest, creating a truly level, fair playing field.
Colby Covington’s Life Threatened by Abdelaziz
Leading up to UFC 235 during fight week, former UFC interim welterweight champion Colby Covington (14-1), the UFC’s #1 ranked contender in the welterweight division crashed the #2 ranked Kamaru Usman’s (15-1) UFC 235 open workout Thursday as detailed in a MMAFighting.com Tweet featuring video of Covington on a bullhorn reminding Usman and the crowd that the real champ was there. It was a ballsy and bold move, absolutely brilliant, and exactly what the doctor ordered to remind the world of who Colby Covington is. This was shameless self-promotion, but brilliantly executed nonetheless.
Covington is a marketing genius and its shenanigans like this that explain why an unnecessary interim title was created for him and why Dana White brought him to the White House to meet President Donald Trump. The guy is a star in the making and the exact kind of athlete people love to hate.
The very public narrative from Covington of having been cheated out of a title spot, “corruption” as Covington put it to ESPN’s Ariel Helwani, is a little more than smoke and mirrors. It is a page taken straight out of the professional wrestling big book of promotion to create a story line and drama for the fans and media who eat this kind of entertainment up hook, line and sinker. Not surprisingly, despite calling Dana White “Uncle Fester” and insisting the UFC President doesn’t want to talk to him, Covington believes he is next in line for a title shot. This is likely the case considering Covington has reaped the rewards of sitting back and watching as one of the divisions two toughest fighters was sent to the back of the line Saturday night in now former champion Tyron Woodley (19-4-1), who was dominated start to finish by Usman in route to a majority decision victory. There is no way anyone will ever convince me this entire charade wasn’t just smoke and mirrors in order to mask the UFC’s true intentions of opening up the landscape in order to clear the way as much as possible for a Covington welterweight title run. This is a page right out of Vince McMahon and Stone Cold Steve Austin’s play book, where a public feud between the two originating in the late ‘90s brought massive ratings for the WWF, which ultimately translated into dollar signs for everyone involved.
In a not so staged, very real-life drama that unfolded the next day after UFC 235 at a buffet in the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, newly crowned welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, his manager Ali Abdelaziz and members of their entourage can be seen in a TMZ video that surfaced online late Sunday afternoon of the team getting into an altercation with former interim welterweight champion Colby Covington, who appears to be outnumbered though surrounded by innocent bystanders caught in the ensuing melee.
At one point, the incident turned chaotic and violent with Abdelaziz appearing to sucker punch a patron who was caught in the crossfire with their back turned no less to the Usman entourage. This isn’t the first time Abdelaziz and Usman have been involved in public altercations, with an earlier incident at a PFL event occurring just last year in 2018.
While these kinds of incidents make for sensational headlines, it’s also important to remember millions of impressionable youth look on and hang on to everything these fighters say and do. Covington would go on tell ESPN’s Ariel Helwani Monday that Abdelaziz threatened to shoot and kill him during the altercation, behavior which is completely unacceptable from anyone much less a manager to several of the UFC’s top fighters and champions.
Askren Big Brothers Lawler In Controversial Ending
The controversies outside the Octagon threatened to overshadow that events that actually took place in the cage, though one fight at UFC 235 managed to catch the public’s imagination for all the wrong reasons. Among the most anticipated matchups of the night at UFC 235 featured former UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler (28-13) take on the undefeated former Olympian Ben Askren (19-0), who had his hands full with the man they call “Ruthless.” Right off the bat, Askren looked to close the distance in an attempt to tie Lawler up for the takedown, nearly taking the former champions back before it was the Olympian Askren who ended up getting taken for a ride and violently slammed to the mat. A brief scramble ensued before it was Lawler who ended up on top, expertly pinning Askren’s arm behind his back as the former champion opened up a can of whoop ass on wrestling prodigy. A solid case could have been made for the fight to have been stopped right there, as Askren appeared knocked unconscious as he ate numerous unanswered blows. Whether that was the case or not, it certainly appeared Askren was out cold.
With Lawler bringing the heat, Askren eventually came to his senses and freed is arm, making his way to half guard before establishing an under hook which the Olympian used to make his way back to his feet. Askren absorbed a tremendous amount of punishment during the exchange, obviously busted up from the Lawler onslaught. From there, the two fighters briefly circled before quite a bit of standing grappling took place against the cage linked fence, each fighter jockeying for position before it was Askren who ended up grabbing a single leg and bringing the former welterweight champion down to the mat.
This is the point where quite a bit of controversy has sense brewed, after some brief wrestling Lawler’s arm appears to go limp after Askren tied him up in a bulldog big brother choke. Referee Herb Dean was faced with some tough decisions in a very short period of time, stop the fight due to the fact it appeared Robbie Lawler was getting chocked unconscious or allow the fight to go on despite the fact nobody could blame him for thinking Lawler was out cold.
The veteran referee Dean appeared to check on Lawler just in case right before ordering Askren to let Lawler go, stopping the fight with Askren winning by technical submission referee stoppage. It was a sensational, come from behind victory that Askren had to dig deep for, but instead his well-earned victory is forever overshadowed by controversy due to no fault of his own.
Initially, I thought the fight was stopped early but upon reviewing the instant replay from numerous angles, a luxury Dean didn’t have at the time, I believe Herb made the correct decision. Though one camera angle has surfaced which does appear to show Lawler giving Dean the thumbs up immediately prior to Herb stopping the fight. We are talking events which transpired within seconds. Lawler looked like he was out cold and Dean was perfectly within his rights to call the fight when he did. It can’t be easy being a referee and this latest decision from Dean is a good case in point.
Unfortunately for Herb there is an army of fans and pundits alike who disagree with the decision, including UFC President Dana White who publicly stated he didn’t believe Dean got the call right. It was a controversial decision, but based upon what Dean was seeing at the time and the fact Lawler’s arm did in fact appear to go limp, it was the correct call as far as I am concerned. And this is coming from someone who has been critical of Dean in the past. The real story here is Askren defeating the assassin specifically brought in to kick Ben’s ass. Mission accomplished, though the outcome wasn’t exactly what Dana was hoping for.
Munhoz Stops Garbrandt in Barn Burner, Johnny Walker Prevails Over Cirkunov
The two best fights of the night were former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt (11-3) vs. Pedro Munhoz (18-3) and Johnny Walker vs. Misha Cirkunov (14-5). Garbrandt vs. Munhoz was a barn burner, with the former champion showing a true warrior spirit in going out on his shield in an absolute fire fight with Munhoz who ended up catching Garbrandt with a big shot and sending the former champion crashing to the canvas.
It was exactly the kind of fight the fans wanted to see, and win or lose, Cody Garbrandt makes it to my All-Violence First Team for ensuring the fans get to see exactly what they came for. This was an exciting fight everyone looks back fondly on despite the former champion having dropped three in a row now, two of which were back-to-back loses to the champion T.J. Dillashaw. I do not think that means as much as some might think when you’re consistently involved in some of the most exciting fights in the promotion on a regular basis. Garbrandt is a stud, though one who is going to need to evolve if he hopes to be able to escape serious traumatic brain injury later down the line.
The electrifying 6’6” Johnny Walker (17-3) made short work of the very tough Misha Cirkunov, briefly displaying a very unpredictable and unorthodox offensive game before absolutely blasting Cirkunov into another dimension with a flying knee that sent the Latvia fighter collapsing to the canvas. It was a very impressive performance and has put the rest of the light heavyweight division on notice that a new kid is in town. But the question remains, does Walker have the grappling acumen to compete with the Jonny “Bones” Jones’s of the world? That question remains to be seen, but it should be a wild ride on our way to finding out the answer.