Considering the circumstances, it was the one of the best outcomes possible for Jon Jones.
The former UFC light heavyweight champion was handed a 15-month suspension by an independent arbitrator for a failed drug test in relation to UFC 214 in July 2017, according to a statement released by USADA. Jones tested positive for the anabolic steroid Turinabol during an in-competition screening, which resulted in him being stripped of the light heavyweight belt and his TKO win over Daniel Cormier being overturned to a no contest.
According to the statement, Jones’ case was decided at an evidentiary hearing on Sept. 15. As a second time offender — Jones tested positive for two estrogen blockers at UFC 200 — the light heavyweight was looking at as much as a four-year suspension. Instead, Jones will be eligible to return to action on Oct. 28, just days before UFC 230 at Madison Square Garden in New York. His sanction is retroactive to July 28, 2017.
The USADA statement is as follows:
Prior to the hearing, USADA determined that a 30-month reduction in the otherwise applicable period of ineligibility was appropriate under the rules based on Jones’ delivery of substantial assistance. Evidence related to Jones’ substantial assistance was presented at the hearing and considered by the arbitrator.
The sanction was further reduced by the arbitrator based on Jones’ reduced degree of fault and the circumstances of the case, including the fact that Jones had been tested on multiple occasions leading up to UFC 214, and as recently as three weeks prior to the event, all of which yielded negative results for prohibited substances.
“The independent arbitrator found that Jon Jones was not intentionally cheating in this case, and while we thought 18-months was the appropriate sanction given the other circumstances of the case, we respect the arbitrator’s decision and believe that justice was served,” said USADA CEO Travis T. Tygart. “This case is another strong reminder that athletes need to be extremely cautious about the products and supplements they use to ensure they are free of prohibited substances.
Jones’ 15-month period of ineligibility began on July 28, 2017, the date his positive sample was collected, making him eligible on October 28, 2018. In addition, Jones’s victory at UFC 214 was recorded as a no-contest, and the UFC stripped Jones of the championship belt. The athlete’s positive test also falls under the jurisdiction of the California State Athletic Commission, which previously fined Jones $205,000 and revoked Jones’ license until the conclusion of the disciplinary process administered by USADA under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy.
The “substantial assistance” mentioned in the statement means that a fighter helps USADA or other anti-doping organization by “discovering or bringing forward an Anti-Doping Policy Violation” by another person or something else that “results in a criminal or disciplinary body discovering or bringing forward a criminal offense or the breach of professional rules committed.” If Jones no longer cooperates in this regard he could have more time added to his suspension.
The decision is Jones’ case was rendered by Richard H. McLaren, chief arbitrator from McLaren Global Sport Solutions, Inc. (MGSS). The ruling can be viewed in its entirety here.
“Jon Jones has gone through a great deal of difficulties,” McLaren wrote in his decision. “He gave me the very distinct impression that he has learned a lot from the loss of the image of himself that he had as a champion MMA fighter. He has been humbled and humiliated by the experience but has learned from his misfortune. He needs the opportunity to regain his dignity and self-esteem.”
According to the arbitration agreement, Jones submitted 14 supplements he was using in 2017 prior to his positive test for Turinabol, none of which had a prohibited substance on its label. None of the supplements submitted for testing were found to have contained a banned anabolic substance.
Meanwhile, Jones admitted to using “street drugs,” including cocaine before and after his anti-doping violation on July 28, 2017. As a result Jones “willingly entered into a full-time rehabilitation program which has led to his having a greater understanding that his addiction is an illness.”
“I find the athlete to have been a truthful witness who recognizes his past mistakes and has learned from them,” McLaren wrote. “His demeanor at the hearing was of a person who is sorry for his past mistakes and recognizes that he can only improve on these errors by being an exemplary competitor who is drug free in the future. Throughout listening to the testimony, I found the athlete to have been a very credible person who was well intended and well meaning.”