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Jon Jones gets 15-month USADA ban for turinabol, eligible to return as early as UFC 230

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Jon Jones is back.

USADA has finally made its ruling on Jon Jones’ positive drug test for turinabol, and it’s a favorable one for the former UFC light heavyweight champion.

Jones, who could’ve faced a four-year ban for his second USADA failure since 2016, received a substantially reduced suspension of just 15 months, backdated to his July 2017 rematch vs. Daniel Cormier. This makes him eligible to return to competition after October 28th, which means he can be the headliner for UFC 230, 231, or 232 if he’s ready to compete again.

Here are the key details from the USADA independent arbitration ruling, which includes their reasoning for giving Jones a reduced ban even though he received a maximum one-year suspension for his pre-UFC 200 failure for clomiphene.

Jones, 31, tested positive for a prohibited substance as result of a sample collected during the in-competition testing period on July 28, 2017, before his bout at UFC 214 in Anaheim, Calif., an event sanctioned by the California Athletic Commission. Jones’ sample contained 4-chloro-18-nor-17β-hydroxymethyl,17α-methyl-5α-androst-13-en-3α-ol (M3), a metabolite of dehydrochlormethyltestosterone (DHCMT), or another chlorine-substituted anabolic steroid. Chlorine-substituted anabolic steroids, including DHCMT, are non-Specified Substances in the class of Anabolic Agents and prohibited at all times under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, which has adopted the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List.

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.”

That line about “Jones’ delivery of substantial assistance” is really important to note, because that all but indicates that Jones went the “snitch” route, as you can see in section of the UFC-USADA policy.

USADA in its sole discretion may suspend all or part of the period of Ineligibility and other Consequences imposed in an individual case in which it has results management authority where the Athlete or other Person has provided Substantial Assistance to USADA or another Anti-Doping Organization, criminal authority or professional disciplinary body which results in: (i) USADA or another Anti-Doping Organization discovering or bringing forward an Anti-Doping Policy Violation by another Person and the information provided by the Person providing Substantial Assistance is made available to USADA, or (ii) which results in a criminal or disciplinary body discovering or bringing forward a criminal offense or the breach of professional rules committed by another Person and the information provided by the Person providing Substantial Assistance is made available to USADA. The extent to which the otherwise applicable period of Ineligibility and other Consequences imposed may be suspended shall be based on the seriousness of the Anti-Doping Policy Violation committed by the Athlete or other Person and the significance of the Substantial Assistance provided by the Athlete or other Person to the effort to eliminate doping in sport. If the Athlete or other Person fails to continue to cooperate and to provide the complete and credible Substantial Assistance upon which a suspension of the period of Ineligibility or other Consequences was based, USADA shall reinstate the original period of Ineligibility and other Consequences.

Absolute madness that this case has taken such a wacky turn.

By sheer coincidence, UFC 230 tickets go on sale soon and there’s a press conference for UFC 229: Khabib vs. McGregor in New York City, the same place where UFC 230 will be held. Alexander Gustafsson and current two-division champion Daniel Cormier are surely a pair of fighters who are intrigued by this announcement, and now we’ll see if either one of them is next for “Bones.”