LOS ANGELES — The California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) held a licensing hearing for Jon Jones on Dec. 11. Before that hearing, the commissioners and executive officer Andy Foster did not know about Jones’ adverse drug-test findings from August and September, UFC executive Jeff Novitzky said Friday.
Jones’ license was granted back at that hearing in Sacramento, Calif., after it was revoked in February following a positive drug test in July 2017 for a prohibited steroid metabolite. The license that was granted at that hearing is what is allowing Jones to fight Alexander Gustafsson for the UFC light heavyweight title in the main event of UFC 232 on Saturday in Inglewood, Calif.
The commission was not told that Jones had an adverse finding in his USADA drug-test results from Aug. 29 and Sept. 18, which Novitzky revealed on Joe Rogan’s podcast Thursday. The adverse findings were for trace amounts of a long-term metabolite of the steroid Turinabol, the same one he tested positive for last year. USADA is the UFC’s anti-doping partner.
“No, they didn’t,” Novitzky said when asked if CSAC knew Dec. 11. “Nevada knew at that time, but California didn’t. … I mean, hey, in hindsight, maybe [USADA should have told CSAC]. I’m definitely a proponent in as much transparency as possible. Unfortunately, how do you think of every scenario? I think in USADA’s mind, they had no obligation to let Nevada know about this at all. It wasn’t within their jurisdiction. I think out of an abundance of caution, they did it. Could they have given it to [CSAC] as well? I think potentially.”
Foster confirmed with MMA Fighting on Friday that CSAC had no knowledge of the adverse findings until last week. He declined to comment further.
The Nevada commission was told of the findings in early December because Jones was initially scheduled to fight Gustafsson in Las Vegas, Novitzky said. Jones also had four tests come back clean between September and November, Novitzky said on the Rogan show. Since then, a sample collection from Dec. 9, came back with traces of the M3 metabolite of Turinabol again. Novitzky has described the phenomenon of some drug tests coming back clean and others coming back adverse as “pulsing,” because of the relatively small amount of the metabolite in Jones’ system.
After getting back that Dec. 9 test and based on analyzing the last 18 months of Jones drug-test results, the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) said last Sunday that it would not let Jones compete this coming weekend, pending a hearing to find out more information. The NAC allowed Jones to withdraw his license application and he’ll have to go in front of the commission for a hearing next month.
With Nevada unwilling to license Jones in time, the UFC contacted Foster and CSAC, who had already granted Jones a license Dec. 11. Based on the word of scientists, experts and USADA, Foster has said he believes the science points to Jones being clean and the metabolite in his system being the same one from July 2017 — the one he was already punished for. Jones was suspended 15 months in his USADA case for that violation.
So, with CSAC on board to keep Jones in the fight, the UFC uprooted the entire UFC 232 event and moved it from Las Vegas to the Los Angeles area.
The Nevada commission was first told in early December and didn’t get back the final Dec. 9 result until last week. When asked if USADA could have or should have told the Nevada commission earlier, after the August and September findings, Novitzky said USADA was still investigating and exercising caution with regards to due process.
“The way USADA adjudicates the program is they’re very conscious of the fairness and due process afforded the athletes,” Novitzky said. “I take a lot of pride in that. I say this very often that having a strong, comprehensive program is important, but just as important is being fair and having due process afforded to the athletes. So I think in their thought, if they notified Nevada of this right away, when they had even an inkling that, ‘Hey, maybe this is an issue, a remnant issue, not a subsequent violation,’ they’ve gotta be very careful, because a commission could go off on their own and use the adversely against the athlete.
“Again, ideally, would we have liked to have it earlier? Yes. But they took a lot of care into consideration and reaching out to all the experts and vetting the issues out here. And again, I think they did the right thing.”