Jon Jones says he never knowingly ingested any banned substance. Yet the former UFC light heavyweight champion failed a drug test in June, forcing the the UFC to pull him from the UFC 200 main event last week.
USADA's results management process has to play itself out. It seems like Jones and his team are laying the foundation for a tainted supplement defense. And it's certainly possible Jones took something that was contaminated.
Both Yoel Romero and Tim Means tested positive for banned substances in USADA drug tests this year. They each got six-month suspensions, rather than two-year bans, because they were able to prove the supplement they took contained that banned substance.
The supplement industry might as well be the Wild, Wild West. There is no regulation and, according to experts, contamination is rampant. So much so that Mike Dolce, one of MMA's leading nutrition gurus, doesn't let his clients use any supplements unless they are properly vetted and would prefer them not take supplements at all.
Dolce told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour that he has every client get a full medical workup right off the bat. After the tests, deficiencies in any nutritional areas are sought out and if any are found, then Dolce said he will go to USADA's website to see which supplement in the proper category of need has been ruled safe. Dolce said he'll then have his client go back to his or her doctor and get the supplement cleared by a medical professional. All clients are also required to sign a waiver regarding supplements, he said.
"This is what you must do at the elite level," Dolce said.
Dolce, who has worked with the likes of Ronda Rousey, Chael Sonnen, Thiago Alves and others, said he also has UFC vice president of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky on "speed dial," because Novitzky can call USADA and find out first-hand which supplements are OK.
Novitzky told MMA Fighting in an interview earlier this year that he fields dozens of calls from fighters and teams per week asking about supplements. The most he can tell them, he said, is that a supplement is mostly safe. Because it's always possible one particular batch is tainted.
"Unfortunately, the best answer that I can give back is, 'Hey, it appears to be low risk,'" said Novitzky, who was previously an agent for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). "I can never give the answer, 'Hey, 100 percent you're good to go with this supplement.' There's frustration there.
"It's just the nature of the industry. You never know. You can literally have 99 bottles of a supplement that are good to go and would have in it what it says on the label, but that [100th] bottle is tainted or contaminated with something. I saw that routinely in the industry with my experience there."
Dolce said that since these protocols with the UFC and USADA are in place Jones should be held responsible for what he consumed. Jones lost $10 million when he was pulled from the title fight with Daniel Cormier.
"There's no excuse," Dolce said. "Especially at the elite level. We're talking about millions of dollars, off a scoop of some $20 sucralose-laden crap that's not giving performance anyway. And I will say that there are supplements out there that are intentionally doped, that the supplement store owner knows and they kind of lie under the fringe and they're sitting on the shelf and the supplement store clerk is gonna be like, ‘This is the one.'"
Jones' supplement sponsor GAT has already denied to USA Today that any of its products are contaminated, perhaps anticipating a tainted supplement defense from Jones and his team.
Dolce added that supplements are more trouble than they're worth and many don't help athletes in any way.
"We don't need supplements," he said. "You should be getting all your nutrition through food, through proper lifestyles, through periodization, through intelligent training, through rest management, through stress mediation. That's the way you can perform optimally."