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Jon Jones' out of competition drug tests all show abnormal hormone levels

All three out of competition drug tests administered to Jon Jones in December show abnormal levels of various hormones.

The Nevada athletic commission tested Jon Jones on three separate occasions during December 2014. Two of these tests, both administered on December 4th, showed the presence of cocaine metabolites. What has received less discussion is that all three tests show abnormal levels of testosterone and/or epitestosterone.

All tests show his testosterone level being significantly below the normal margin. His T:E ratios of  0.35:1 0.29:1 and 0.19:1 all raise significant flags.

On what appears to be his first test of December 4th, Jones testosterone levels measured at 59ng/dL. His epitestosterone levels measured at 170ng/dL. The normal range for epitestosterone is usually similar to that of testosterone. 

On what appears to be his second test of that day, his testosterone levels had risen  to 180ng/dL. His epitestosterone levels had also risen to 610ng/dL.

On December 18th his testosterone levels are still lower than normal, at 180ng/dL, but his epitesterone appears to have increased very significantly, coming in at 2700ng/dL. This is a red flag. Epitestosterone is produced in parallel with testosterone, and in a normal, healthy individual every 1ng/dL of testosterone produces roughly 1ng/dL of epitestosterone. Natural variance means anything from 0.7x to 2x are pretty common.

Disclaimer: The below is speculative and should not be construed as factual information or reporting.

What possible explanations are there for such odd results? Well for the low testosterone there are plenty. The normal levels are those taken first thing in the morning. If Jon Jones was tested late in the day, his levels would be slightly lower than normal anyway. If the tests came after a strenuous training session, this would lower them even further. Certain drugs, especially opiate based painkillers, can also have a very significant, though temporary, effect on testosterone levels and production.

I am personally unaware of any natural reason for epitestosterone to be so much higher than testosterone. Readings such as this are typically seen as red flags for drug testing agencies, as exogenous epitestosterone (that is, epitestosterone administered from an external source, not produced naturally by the body) is banned due to its use as a masking agent. Athletes were using epitestosterone to ensure their T:E ratios would not be too high on standard urine tests, leading to the ban by WADA and other organisations.

Another possibility is that the lab screwed up. Ben Bennett told Ariel Helwani that even though the testing documents state Jon Jones was tested for drugs not banned out of competition on December 18th, that he was in fact not tested for those substances on that date. That's a pretty significant typo, and it definitely means the spectre of incompetence looms over the results. The test results are reproduced below for perusal.

Lastly, it has to be noted that urine testing for testosterone levels is significantly less accurate than blood testing. All three tests appear to be urine tests only. It's also possible that the concentration/dilution of Jones' urine mean his levels look abnormal. It should not affect the relative ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone, though. Nor do I believe it would explain the drastic change in epitestosterone level between his December 4th and December 18th test, since his testosterone levels do not show the same rate of increase.

Do note that I'm not an endocrinologist, and my knowledge on this subject is one gained from hours of reading studies and speaking to/interviewing actual experts, not a medical degree. Just because I'm not aware of a way for his epitestosterone to be high doesn't mean there isn't one.

Correction: This article originally stated normal levels of testosterone are 300ng/dL-1100ng/dL. This is for levels in blood tests, which the NAC either did not conduct or did not release the results of, not urine tests. The article has been updated correct this. Thanks to Victor Conte for pointing this out.

Jon Jones Dec 18th drug test