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Full details on decision to ban ‘Reckless’ Jones for 12 months

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Following Jon Jones’ USADA arbitration hearing, Iain Kidd lays out a timeline of events, and lists the many reasons given for Jones receiving the full 12 month suspension.

Jon Jones UFC 200 press conference by Esther Lin MMA Fighting
Jon Jones UFC 200 press conference by Esther Lin MMA Fighting
Jon Jones UFC 200 press conference by Esther Lin MMA Fighting

A lot of questions were raised by the news that Jon Jones was banned for one year at his recent arbitration hearing (for those of you that are records keepers, this is the first time any fighter has gone to arbitration with USADA), especially since on his social media, he had seemed so confident of avoiding any significant punishment. Below is a timeline of what happened, when, and a detailed explanation into why he received the punishment he did.

Jon Jones has been tested regularly by USADA since its inception, with the following results:

December 8th, 2015 - Zero declared medications/supplements, zero banned substances detected.

March 4th, 2016 - Zero declared medications/supplements, zero banned substances detected.

March 25, 2016 - Zero declared medications/supplements, zero banned substances detected. April 4th, 2016 - Zero declared medications/supplements, zero banned substances detected.

April 23rd, 2016 (in-competition) - Eight declared medications/supplements, zero banned substances detected

June 16th, 2016 - Zero declared medications/supplements, two banned substances detected.

The test on June 16th was the first and only positive test. SMRTL - a WADA accredited lab in Salt Lake City, Utah - returned a positive result for clomiphene and letrozole metabolites on July 6th, 2016. Jones had not declared the use of any substance within the past week when he was administered the test.

On or around July 25th, 2016, Jones’ attorney sent two products for contamination testing; a bottle of T-Anabol, a WADA code compliant product he had been using since 2011, and a sealed silver pouch of Tadalafil, which Jones had received from teammate Eric Blasich on or around June 14th, 2016, to Korva laboratories. Jones had not declared either of these products at the time he took the positive test on June 16th. Jones did check the USADA guidelines to ensure Tadalafil (also known as cialis) was not a banned substance, which it is not.

In August 2016, Korva laboratories informed Jones that the Tadalafil provided had tested positive for clomiphene and letrozole - the substances which showed up on his positive test. The T-Anabol did not test positive for either of those substances. Jones proceeded to request an arbitration hearing with USADA on August 5th, 2016. That day, Jones’ attorney informed USADA that Tadalafil obtained from All American Peptide had tested positive for the substances on Jones’ test.

USADA arranged to test the Tadalafil that Jones highlighted as tainted. SMRTL ordered a batch of Tadalafil from All American Supplements for testing on August 5th, and USADA ordered a batch on August 8th. On August 26th USADA requested 5 capsules from the batch Jones possessed, and then repeated this request on August 31st after the original pills were damaged in transit. Jones supplied said pills to USADA.

On September 26th, 2016 SMRTL reported that all four shipments of Tadalafil it had received tested positive for clomiphene, letrozole, and another banned substance, tamoxifen. The following results are in micrograms.

Sample #1, purchased by SMRTL contained:

Clomiphene - 10 mcg, Letrozole - 170 mcg, Tamoxifen - 360 mcg

Sample #2, purchased by USADA, contained:

Clomiphene - 130 mcg, Letrozole - 80 mcg, Tamoxifen - 120 mcg

Sample #3, provided by Jones and damaged in transit, contained:

Clomiphene - 320 mcg, Letrozole - 37 mcg, Tamoxifen - 230 mcg

Sample #4, provided by Jones, contained

Clomiphene - 430 mcg, Letrozole - 45 mcg, Tamoxifen - 320 mcg

The decision notes that there were possible explanations for Jones’ test not returning positive for Tamoxifen, stating:

On October 31st, 2016 Jones attended the arbitration hearing which led to his one-year suspension. The decision contains some notable statements from the hearing, including how the decision was reached.

Something noted in the decision, is that there were errors or omissions in the declarations of Jones and the teammate who supplied him with the Tadalafil, Eric Blasich. Perhaps most concerning is that when Blasich finally produced an invoice for his order of Tadalafil, it also contained an order for clomiphene. Despite this, the panel concluded that the evidence suggested Jones’ failed test was caused by the “Tadalafil”.

The panel noted that Jones made no attempt to see the packaging to check the ingredients, nor did he inform his agent he intended to take the substance or ask for advice related to taking the substance. They also raised the point that if Jones had asked where the product was obtained from, and checked the source, he would have found the source sold several WADA prohibited substances alongside the alleged tadalafil. The panel noted,

Jones’ lawyer raised the point that Jones relied on his agent, Malki Kawa, for advice on anti-doping matters, and noted cases in which this had reduced the athletes personal responsibility. The panel pointed out that not only does Mr Kawa not have the medical or scientific background to provide that advice, but that Jones had not even consulted Mr. Kawa in advance of taking the substance.

On top of this, Jones appears to have admitted that he did not make use of the educational anti-doping materials he was provided by the UFC, instead relying on an “incomplete and inadequate summary” given by Malki Kawa, concluding,

The potential punishment for Jones’ violation was originally stated to be 2-4 years by USADA, but after examination, USADA decided that clomiphene and letrozole should be counted as specified substances, rather than non-specified substances. A test failure for a specified substance carries a one-year ban, with a potential two-year additional penalty for aggravating circumstances. A non-specified substance carries a two year ban, with a potential two year additional penalty for aggravating circumstances.

As additional punishment for aggravating circumstances was not requested by USADA, therefore, the maximum punishment Jones faced was one year. The arbitration panel decided that Jones should face the full punishment, as Jones “verged on reckless” by accepting the word of his teammate that the pill he received was Tadalafil.

The panel further noted that the WADA Code requires a two-year suspension for specified substances, and that as a result the UFC/USADA punishment of one year for a specified substance, could not be said to “infringe any principle of proportionality.

The panel did note that the evidence does not suggest Jones was deliberately looking to cheat.

Based on the totality of the evidence given, the panel decided that Jones should have to serve the full 12-month suspension, starting from July 6th, 2016, which was the date USADA & Jones were notified of the positive test. Jones will be able to compete again in July 2017.