Bellator’s Scott Coker made it a point to personally contact California State Athletic Commission executive Andy Foster, following the CSAC’s decision to license Jon Jones for UFC 232. The once-again light heavyweight champion was cleared to compete on just a week’s notice by the commission, after a series of USADA drug tests turned up trace amounts of Turinabol metabolites — which had caused the Nevada Athletic Commission to block his participation in the fight card’s original Las Vegas location.
It’s a decision that’s come under a lot of scrutiny in the time since. Initially, only one of the ‘pulsing’ incidents was reported by the UFC to Foster and the rest of the CSAC. It later turned out that Jones’ samples had been turning up M3 metabolites for months (and apparently continue to do so). Still, Jones went on to face Alexander Gustafsson on December 29th, defeating him via 3rd round TKO. It’s a situation that has Coker disappointed in the sanctioning body — as he revealed in a recent media scrum, ahead of this weekend’s Bellator 214 event in Los Angeles, CA.
“I called Andy Foster, it was a private conversation. I’d like to leave it at that. But, just from a company standpoint I think it’s very disappointing,” Coker said. “You know, you go out there and put your reputation on the line for health and safety and all the weight-cutting the weight cutting things that we have always supported with the commission. And we will continue to support the commission. But listen, if a fighter has PEDs in him, he’s got PEDs in him. That’s how I feel. To be the judge, jury and executioner, now, it’s a little bit challenging for me to accept — but, it is what it is.
“And I always said we’re going to go by commission rules, and we will continue. But, I don’t think that it was the right call. And that was his call to make. And really, in the commission — for 32 years I’ve been with the California State Commission — I think this is one of the few times that I’ve ever said, ‘Hey, this is not right.’ And, you know what? We’ll see what happens with that.”
Following his fighter’s loss to Jones, Gustafsson’s manager – Nima Safapour – released a statement essentially accusing the commission, USADA, and the UFC of granting ‘Bones’ a “use exemption on a strict liability violation,” adding that the “science is not certain on the defense he as taken,” and that Jones is “creating a precedent that will go beyond his personal interests.” One that could see other fighters try to use Jones’ case to clear themselves from punishment for future drug test results.
Coker’s stance is interesting chiefly because Bellator has never pursued any sort of comprehensive out-of-competition drug testing program for any real duration. Fighters like Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva have undergone more testing than state athletic commissions require for bouts in the promotion, but beyond those rare instances, they tend to stick with the fairly minimal pre & post-fight samples taken by the local ACs. It may be worth wondering if, under that lower level of scrutiny, Jones would have been flagged at all.