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Jon Jones’ team declines CSAC proposal to enroll in VADA

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Jon Jones has opted not to enroll with the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA).

At a California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) hearing last week, Jones was granted his license to fight back following a doping suspension. During the hearing, one of the commissioners, Martha Shen-Urquidez, proposed to Jones that if he wanted to completely clear his name, he could join the VADA program. Jones gets tested and adjudicated by USADA, the UFC’s anti-doping partner, as well as athletic commissions. VADA has no financial tie to the UFC.

Jones and his attorney Howard Jacobs agreed in principle in the moment to enroll with VADA. But Jacobs confirmed with MMA Fighting on Wednesday that “after investigating” what the VADA program would entail, Jones and his team decided to “decline” the proposal. MMAjunkie was the first to report the news.

“It’s complicated,” Jacobs said. “To say refused is the wrong word. There were issues with the proposal. We asked questions and were unable to fully resolve it.”

Jacobs said he didn’t want to comment further than that, but said the issues with VADA were “not contentious” and it didn’t have to do with USADA and VADA being competing drug-testing bodies.

Regardless, Jones got his MMA license back and he’ll fight Alexander Gustafsson for the UFC light heavyweight title in the main event of UFC 232 on Dec. 29 in Las Vegas. CSAC granting Jones a license again was not contingent upon him enrolling with VADA.

“It was always an optional thing anyway,” CSAC executive officer Andy Foster told MMA Fighting in a statement. “This was to help Mr. Jones out. Obviously, we don’t have any problems with USADA’s analytical findings at this time for mixed martial arts. This entire case was brought about due to an analytical finding from a USADA test. We wish Mr. Jones success.”

Shen-Urquidez said at the hearing Dec. 11 in Sacramento that Jones could enroll in VADA and dispel doubts that he is a clean athlete.

“I know you’ve said that you’re happy USADA has established that you didn’t do this intentionally in your last test, and all of that, but you and I both know that there is a large number of people who still have some doubts, right?” Shen-Urquidez said to Jones.

“They are out there, and it’s not just a little bit of doubt, but there are people who have serious doubts over this. So I, for one, would like to put the doubts to sleep and to put them away once and for all, and for people to believe you — that you are that talented and that you are the greatest, and that you can win a fight just clean and that this is Jon Jones, and to put those doubts away once and for all. So, I have this idea and I’m just going to put it out there and see if you’ll agree to it.”

Jones will still be tested by USADA and the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) in relation to UFC 232. This year, Jones has already been drug tested 10 times by USADA, per its public database.

Jones, 31, tested positive for a banned steroid metabolite in relation to UFC 214 in July 2017. As a second-time offender, Jones was facing a four-year suspension from USADA. CSAC also carried jurisdiction in the case, because UFC 214 took place in Anaheim, Calif. Foster said at the hearing last week that he no longer wants USADA to adjudicate doping cases that carry CSAC jurisdiction.

All along, Jones has been adamant that he did not knowingly take a banned substance and did not know how the steroid got into his system.

CSAC revoked Jones’ license and fined him $205,000 in February. At the time, Foster said he would wait to see what kind of sanction USADA would give Jones before CSAC granted him back his license. Jones ended up with a 15-month suspension after arbitration, which was announced in September.

USADA said the four-year ban was reduced to 18 months due to Jones providing “substantial assistance,” a provision in the UFC anti-doping policy that allows shortened sentences for athletes who cooperate in other cases, whether they be doping or criminal related. Another three months were taken off by arbitrator Richard McLaren, who wrote that he did not believe Jones intentionally cheated, because of the timing of the test in relation to other passed tests and the low amount of the substance found in Jones’ system.

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