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TMZ reports Jon Jones fails USADA test for Turinabol - What is that?

TMZ is reporting that Jon Jones’ failed drug test from his UFC 214 bout against Daniel Cormier is for the steroid Turinabol. Iain Kidd explains what that is and why it might be found in an athlete’s sample.

Interim UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones Press Conference Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images is reporting, with confirmation from MMAFighting, that Jon Jones failed his in-competition drug test from his UFC 214 bout with Daniel Cormier. TMZ is also reporting that Jones tested positive for Turinabol, though that hasn’t been officially confirmed yet.

If Turinabol sounds familiar, it’s the same drug Frank Mir was suspended for using. It’s an anabolic androgenic steroid (AAS) based on a derivation of testosterone. Turinabol is also known as 4-chlorodehydromethyltestosterone, DHCMT, and CDMT. Unlike many AAS, Turinabol is taken orally rather than injected.

The drug has a long and storied history in athletics, most famously being the drug of choice for the East German Olympic teams throughout the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, and is credited with leading the tiny nation of 17 million people to the podium of the Olympic medal leaderboards, competing directly with the USA and USSR.

The steroid was particularly useful for athletes, since it resulted in lean muscle gain without any significant accompanying water retention or rise in estrogen levels.

It also potentially comes with some significant negative health effects, which former athletes--many of whom were underage when they were given the steroid--are dealing with to this day. The potential health effects include potentially permanent liver damage and raised cholesterol, as well as suppressed natural testosterone production.

The compound came back in vogue over the last decade or so, which combined with the development of a new test detecting a long-lasting metabolite of the drug, resulted in a spike in athletes failing tests for the drug over the last five years or so.

Not all WADA-accredited labs were able to test for the longlasting metabolite even as recently as 2016, but full time testing for the metabolite has been rolled out to most or all WADA-accredited labs over the past few years. The new test can detect the use of Turinabol weeks or months after it was taken.

Turinabol hasn’t been produced for medical use in decades, meaning none of the Turinabol around today is cleared for human use or tested for purity or safety. It is exceedingly unlikely to be found in any legitimate medication as a result.

Turinabol has shown up in a number of supplements, especially over the last couple of years. USADA’s 411 high risk list of tainted supplements lists at least seven supplements verified as containing turinabol, or listed as containing it on the label.

Jon Jones previously failed a pre-UFC 200 drug test for clomiphene and letrozole, both of which are commonly used as “post-cycle therapy” drugs to help mitigate the side effects of anabolic steroid use, and to boost the body’s natural testosterone production.

Jones served the full one year suspension those substances carried after the arbitration panel found his conduct “verged on reckless,” but also found based on the evidence presented to them that Jones, “ not a drug cheat. He did not know the tablet he took contained prohibited substances.”

At this point, it seems that Jones’ tests prior to fight night came back negative, with only his in-competition sample coming back positive. As UFC athletes know they are essentially certain to be tested on fight night, it would be a strange decision to start taking a steroid immediately prior to a fight.

Turinabol, as an S1 class substance (Anabolic Agent) in the WADA prohibited list, carries a standard punishment of two years under the UFC’s USADA contract. As this is Jones’ second failure, he could potentially be facing a suspension as long as four years under the UFC’s Anti-Doping Policy.