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What does Jon Jones’ positive ‘B’ sample really tell us?

USADA have confirmed that Jon Jones’ B sample tested positive for the same substance as his A sample. Iain Kidd explains exactly what that does and doesn’t tell us about Jones’ case, and what effects it has on his case.

Interim UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones Press Conference Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

As first reported by ESPN, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones’ “B” sample has returned positive for the same substance as his “A” sample. A USADA spokesperson provided the following statement to Bloody Elbow:

"Mr. Jones B sample has confirmed the A sample findings. Importantly - as previously stated - due process should occur before drawing any conclusions about this matter."

There has been some confusion about what, exactly, a positive “B” sample tells us, with some people believing it means Jones has been definitively convicted, or that he no longer has any meaningful defense. That’s not necessarily the case.

To understand what the “B” sample tells us, we need to know how the sample process works. When an athlete gives a sample, a USADA agent monitors them urinating into a container. The urine is then split into two separate, secure containers, which the athlete seals. One container will be the “A” sample, and one the “B” sample.

This is important, because the two samples are actually from the same urine. The “B” sample exists to guard against the possibility of contamination or tampering during testing. When an “A” sample is positive, the athlete has the right to be present, or have a representative present, at the opening and testing of their “B” sample.

The two samples are tested at the same lab, unless there is a good reason that can’t happen, such as a lab having its accreditation revoked in the meantime, or not being accredited for a specific test that has to be performed on the “B” sample.

So, with that in mind, what does Jones’ “B” sample testing positive tell us in regards to his test? Nothing new. It just means we can rule out the A sample being accidentally contaminated at testing time, which was never likely to begin with.

It should be noted that—to my knowledge—no “B” sample has ever come back negative after a positive “A” sample in the entire UFC/USADA program, though I am awaiting official confirmation from USADA on that fact.

USADA have separately confirmed to Bloody Elbow that samples taken from Jones in early July did not test positive for Turinabol—and Turinabol screening is part of the regular urine test at all WADA labs—meaning he must have ingested the substance sometime between those tests, and his positive test on July 28th.

Due to the timing of the positive test, a claim of a tainted supplement was always the most likely defense. As stated by UFC VP of athlete health & performance, Jeff Novitzky, to Yahoo Sports:

“Any sophisticated user, or anyone who does a Google search, will see it could be potentially two months in your system. Thus, it would not be a drug of choice if you had any level of sophistication.”

The “B” sample coming back positive has no real effect one way or another on the potential tainted supplement defense. It’s certainly not the case that the positive “B” sample somehow precludes Jones from having any defense whatsoever, and he still has plenty of opportunity to present his case to USADA, or to the UFC’s neutral arbitration panel if he so chooses.

That being said, the “B” sample coming back positive does have one notable effect; it has resulted in the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) overturning the result of his fight with Daniel Cormier, which is now considered a no contest.

Andy Foster, the executive director of the CSAC, provided this statement to Bloody Elbow:

“Once we receive confirmation of the positive test, the result of the fight is overturned. Mr. Jones still has all of his due process rights, and he can still appeal the decision.”

While some may feel overturning the decision at this point in the process is premature, it makes sense. The question of whether or not Jones had Turinabol in his system has been pretty definitively answered by the positive “B” sample. The only remaining question is how the substance got there.

Regardless of how it got in his system, the fact is he had a banned substance in his system leading up to his fight with Daniel Cormier. It’s unfair to Cormier to leave a loss on his record after that fact has been established. While it may turn out that Jones didn’t intentionally ingest Turinabol, it was still present and still, in theory, provided an unfair advantage.

Once the CSAC received confirmation that the substance was in Jones’ system, the right thing to do is overturn that decision. It’s worth comparing this response with the response of the Texas department of licensing & regulation (TDLR), which overturned the result of Cortney Casey’s fight after a positive “A” sample, before Casey even had the chance to show the result was due to testing error.

Outside of the result now officially being overturned, the “B” sample returning positive doesn’t actually change anything. Jones still has the right to present possible explanations and defenses for the positive test to USADA, and to take his case to arbitration if he so chooses. He also has the right to appeal the CSAC’s decision to overturn his fight.

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