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Trace amount of same steroid metabolite found in Jon Jones’ UFC 232 VADA test results

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Steroid metabolites have been found in Jon Jones’ system again.

Jones, the UFC light heavyweight champion, was drug tested in competition by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA) in relation to his UFC 232 fight last month with Alexander Gustafsson. The results, which came back this week, showed that the long-term oral Turinabol metabolite that has plagued Jones for more than a year was present, according to information obtained by MMA Fighting from the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC).

Jones had 33 picograms of 4-chloro-18-nor-17β-hydroxymethyl,17α-methyl-5α-androst-13-en-3α-ol (M3) (or DHMCT) in his system, per the commission. The urine sample was collected from him on the day of weigh-ins, Dec. 28. Jones defeated Alexander Gustafsson by third-round TKO in the main event of UFC 232 in Inglewood, Calif., a day later to regain the UFC light heavyweight belt.

CSAC will not take disciplinary action against Jones, executive officer Andy Foster said. This is the same, long-term M3 metabolite that Jones was suspended 15 months for stemming from a July 2017 sample collection in relation to UFC 214, Foster said. Foster said subsequent drug tests on Jones done by VADA, UFC partner USADA, and the commission have come back clean since the in-competition abnormal reading, including fight-night tests.

Foster said he checked again this week with Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory (SMRTL) lab director Dr. Daniel Eichner and Eichner stood by his previous statement that there was no evidence that Jones had re-administered a banned substance and no performance-enhancing benefits.

“I spoke with the scientists,” Foster said. “They stand by their original statement. Nothing has changed. We’ve already punished Jon Jones for the M3 metabolite, which is a long-term metabolite. There’s no grounds to charge somebody twice for the same violation.”

This is the very same metabolite that came up in Jones’ drug-test results multiple times between August 2018 and December 2018, the last of which coming on Dec. 9, which led to the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) not wanting to license Jones to fight at UFC 232 without a proper hearing.

With Nevada unable to bring him before the commission until this month, the UFC moved the entire UFC 232 card, originally scheduled for Las Vegas, to Southern California. Foster, who had dealt with Jones’ UFC 214 situation, already had an understanding of the case and he trusted the word of Eichner and other experts that there was no evidence that Jones had taken any new prohibited substances. SMRTL is the lab that analyzed all of the Jones tests that have turned up the metabolite.

The published science on oral Turinabol states that the M3 metabolite of oral Turinabol can be detected in someone’s system for 40 to 50 days, though no new peer-reviewed studies have been done since 2011, because Turinabol is an illegal drug. This in-competition sample Dec. 28 was collected about 17 months after Jones initially tested positive for the metabolite. Per USADA and the UFC, the science in these cases is evolving and the amount found in Jones’ system is ultra trace down to the picogram level.

UFC vice president of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky told MMA Fighting that he’s not at all surprised that the M3 metabolite is still in Jones’ system and “pulsing” or showing up at different times. Novitzky said experts have theorized that the metabolite pops up in drug tests when Jones is cutting weight or doing heavy exercise, which could explain the weigh-in day abnormal reading. Like CSAC, USADA will not be taking any action against Jones for this instance, Novitzky said.

“Science-wise, it does make some sense,” Novitzky said. “Once again, there was no parent compound and none of the short- or medium-term metabolites, which tend to stick around for three or weeks. So this is even more indicative that for whatever reason this long-term metabolite is just hanging around in these tissues and they get expressed when you’re going through weight loss.”

Novitzky said USADA has found another UFC fighter, whom he would not name, who is going through a similar “pulsing” situation with the M3 metabolite. He had mentioned fighter Grant Dawson previously as someone who had that metabolite in his system and a similar circumstance. USADA ultimately cleared Dawson.

Novitzky assured that USADA is not giving Jones a proverbial get-out-of-jail-free card every time this steroid metabolite pops up in his system.

“I don’t think it’s a blanket statement that every time that metabolite shows up that it’s automatically considered no re-administration,” he said “They’re looking at a lot of different factors each time it does show up. They’re looking at biological passport information to determine, are any of these other levels suspicious or raising or dropping. They’re looking to see if they can detect any of the shorter or medium term metabolites. It’s not accurate to say that every time this expresses itself in Jon it’s an automatic free pass. They look at it in detail every time it shows up to make sure that everything is consistent with no re-administration and no performance-enhancing benefit.”

Jones, 31, all along has denied knowingly taking any banned substances. He was suspended 15 months in his USADA case stemming from the UFC 214 positive test. Jones was facing a four-year ban as a repeat offender, but that was reduced to 18 months when Jones provided “substantial assistance,” or cooperation in an undisclosed, separate case. The suspension was reduced again to 15 months when arbitrator Richard McLaren determined that Jones did not likely ingest a prohibited substance intentionally.

The first time Jones, regarded as one of the best MMA fighters of all time, tested positive under USADA was in 2016, for the anti-estrogen agents clomiphene and Letrozol. He was suspended one year after arbitration in that case.

The fight against Gustafsson was Jones’ first bout since his win over Daniel Cormier was overturned at UFC 214 due to the positive drug test. Jones is now scheduled to defend his title against Anthony Smith in the main event of UFC 235 on March 2 in Las Vegas.

That booking is contingent on Jones being licensed by the NAC. Jones is scheduled to go before the commission in a hearing next Tuesday.