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Nevada commission won’t license Jon Jones after abnormal drug-test finding, UFC 232 moves to California

The Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) will not allow Jon Jones to fight next weekend in Las Vegas. Therefore, the UFC is moving its entire UFC 232 show to the Los Angeles area, it was announced Sunday.

The NAC will not license Jones to fight Alexander Gustafsson on Dec. 29 due to a drug-testing abnormality. Per a statement from the commission, after analysis of 18 months of Jones drug-test results, the NAC has determined that Jones will have to come before the commission for a hearing in January. He will not be able to fight next weekend.

“This will allow for a measured, thoughtful, and comprehensive discussion of his anti-doping testing protocol and results and provide an opportunity for the NSAC to determine the appropriate path forward for him in Nevada,” the commission statement read. “We look forward to his hearing.”

The UFC will not cancel the light heavyweight title fight. Jones will still fight Gustafsson, as UFC 232 moves to Inglewood, Calif. The California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) has already granted Jones a license. CSAC executive officer Andy Foster told MMA Fighting that the abnormality in Jones’ test results comes from his positive drug test back in July 2017. Jones was suspended 15 months for that failed test for a steroid metabolite.

“We’ve got a statement from three different scientists, from the [WADA-accredited] lab director [at SMRTL in Salt Lake City] saying there’s no evidence of any new ingestion,” Foster said. “This isn’t a new thing. This is what he’s been punished for already. He’s already served his time on this.”

Foster said Jones flew to California this weekend to be drug tested and the results have already come back negative.

“He’s a clean athlete,” Foster said.

USADA released a statement Sunday saying that it notified the Nevada commission Thursday about an “extremely low” amount of the prohibited substance 4-chloro-18-nor-17β-hydroxymethyl,17α-methyl-5α-androst-13-en-3α-ol (M3) found in Jones’ system stemming from an out-of-competition Dec. 9 sample collection. That’s the same substance Jones tested positive for in July 2017. USADA determined that the trace is “consistent with residual amounts from his prior exposure for which he was previously sanctioned.” USADA said it has agreed with the independent arbitrator who previously felt Jones was getting no performance-enhancing benefits from those levels. Jones is not facing any further sanction from USADA.

UFC 232 was supposed to take place Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Since California will license Jones and Nevada will not, the entire card will be moved to The Forum in Inglewood, Calif.

“There’s been no violation of the anti-doping program,” UFC vice president of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky told reporters Sunday. “He’s been cleared to fight in terms of the USADA program. … USADA fully analyzed it internally. They reached out to outside experts from around the world. They reached out to another sports league that has seen the same issue. And all of them, independent of us, determined that this was not a re-ingestion of the substance and this very, very small amount that was occurring and still showing up, according to these expects from around the world, did not provide any performance-enhancing benefit.

“Not much is known about this longterm metabolite. The parent compound is not approved for human use anywhere in the world … but what both USADA and other entities are seeing is that a recurrence, or potential ‘pulsing,’ where you have multiple negative tests and then a positive one for a very low amount – they’re seeing that quite commonly over time. And no one knows how long this could last – it could potentially last forever (in Jones’ system).”

Jones tested positive for the metabolite in relation to UFC 214 in July 2017. He had his license revoked by the California commission back in February and was fined $205,000. In his case with USADA, Jones was suspended 15 months after facing a four-year ban.

USADA reduced the suspension to 18 months after Jones provided “substantial assistance,” or cooperation in another case, whether it be anti-doping or criminal. Arbitrator Richard McLaren shortened it further to 15 months with the belief that Jones did not knowingly cheat, which the former UFC champion has adamantly said all along.

CSAC granted Jones his license back earlier this month. One California commissioner Martha Shen-Urquidez proposed that Jones enroll with the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency to fully clear his name in a program without a financial relationship to the UFC. Jones’ team decided to decline that proposal last week.

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