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UFC exec Jeff Novitzky sets record straight on Jon Jones comments

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Jeff Novitzky did an interview on UFC announcer Bruce Buffer’s podcast last week and one of the topics of discussion was Jon Jones and his doping case with USADA.

A few MMA websites aggregated Novitzky’s quotes from that conversation and used some rather, well, interesting headlines for their pieces. One suggested Novitzky said Jones was likely innocent, another quoted Novitzky as saying Jones might not get any suspension at all. And another referred to Novitzky as the head of USADA.

Novitzky, of course, does not work for USADA. He’s the UFC’s vice president of athlete health and performance. Novitzky sent a statement to MMA Fighting on Tuesday attempting to clarify what he felt were “misleading” headlines about what was said on Buffer’s show.

“The headline and corresponding article took excerpts from an interview I did last week, where I was asked about the status of Jon Jones’ pending case,” Novitzky wrote in the statement. “I indicated that Jon’s camp, the UFC and USADA were all working hard and together to determine the source of the prohibited substance in Jon’s system. That is still the case.

“I stated that this is often a lengthy process that can take up to several months to complete, but that possible sanctions based on the findings of a completed case ranged from a multi-year suspension, to a minimal, or no-fault sanction, if an unavoidable ingestion of the prohibited substance was determined.”

Jones tested positive for the steroid Turinabol in an in-competition drug test stemming from a sample collected in relation to UFC 214 in July. As a repeat offender, Jones is facing up to a four-year suspension from USADA. Last year, the former UFC light heavyweight champion tested positive for two banned substances, clomiphene and Letrozol, and was handed a one-year suspension by arbitrators.

At UFC 214, Jones defeated Daniel Cormier by third-round TKO to regain the UFC light heavyweight title. He was stripped by the UFC last month when the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) overturned the victory to a no contest after the B sample confirmed the positive drug test. Cormier has been given back the belt.

A best-case scenario from USADA would be no suspension for Jones, but every time a UFC fighter has proven he or she was the victim of a tainted supplement that fighter was suspended at least a few months. For example, Yoel Romero and Tim Means each got six-month suspensions last year, even though they proved their positive drug test was due to contaminated supplements. The no-fault rulings have been when fighters from Mexico and China were found to have clenbuterol in their systems. In those countries, the meat can be contaminated with that prohibited substance.

Last year, Jones was suspended one year because arbitrators found him to be negligent in not doing his due diligence to make sure what he ingested was free of prohibited substances. Jones said he took “dick pills” and that’s what led to the positive test. Arbitrators did not believe he intentionally cheated, just that he was reckless.

No official date has been set for Jones’ arbitration this time around. The all-time great fighter will also have to go before the California commission, likely some time in December. The sanctions handed down by USADA and CSAC don’t have to be the same.

It is too soon to speculate on a case that is very much still in the development stages. That’s why Novitzky wants to make it clear that he was not insinuating anything, just laying out multiple possibilities. What Novitzky did say to Buffer was that signs did point to unintentional ingestion based on the fact that Jones passed random, out-of-competition drug tests in early July and fighters anticipate the in-competition tests more than the random, out-of-competition ones.

“While all parties are hoping to find evidence of the unintentional or unavoidable use of the prohibited substance, at no time during the interview did I indicate that there were developments leading in that direction, as was the inference of the headline,” Novitzky said.