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Two Jon Jones drug tests come back atypical, cleared to fight at UFC 235 by NAC

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

LAS VEGAS — Jon Jones will fight at UFC 235. But he’s not out of the woods as far as abnormal drug-test findings.

Two Jones drug-test results from earlier this month came back positive for trace amounts of the metabolite for the prohibited steroid oral Turinabol, sources told MMA Fighting. The atypical findings stemmed from samples collected Feb. 14 and Feb. 15. The tests were administered by the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) and analyzed at the WADA-accredited SMRTL lab in Salt Lake City.

This is the same long-term metabolite — 4-chloro-18-nor-17β-hydroxymethyl,17α-methyl-5α-androst-13-en-3α-ol (M3) (or DHMCT) — that experts believe has been in Jones’ system for at least more than a year. Jones will be cleared to fight by the NAC, because experts believe this is the same long-term metabolite found in Jones’ system in relation to UFC 214 in July 2017 and he was already suspended 15 months by USADA, the UFC’s anti-doping partner, for that violation.

Jones, 31, also tested clean with no presence of the M3 metabolite multiple times since he beat Alexander Gustafsson to win back the UFC light heavyweight title at UFC 232 on Dec. 29.

The Feb. 14 sample came back with 40 picograms per milliliter of DHCMT and the Feb. 15 sample back with 20 picograms per milliliter. Experts have said the amount of picograms is largely irrelevant. The more significant indicator is that it’s the long-term metabolite and not anything shorter term, experts have said.

On Jan. 29, the Nevada commission gave Jones a one-fight conditional license to fight Anthony Smith at UFC 235, which is scheduled for Saturday here at T-Mobile Arena. The commission had knowledge that the long-term M3 metabolite could pop back into Jones’ system — a phenomenon called “pulsing” — in several tests leading up to the fight. The NAC requested Jones be drug tested at least twice per month leading up to the fight — at his own cost — and beyond.

Per an NAC release obtained by MMA Fighting, the latest results were reviewed by Dr. Daniel Eichner, the lab director at SMRTL, and he determined — like he has previously — that they show “no evidence” that a banned substance has been re-administered, nor is their evidence that Jones has an unfair competitive advantage due to the presence of the metabolite.

“The above analytical findings are consistent with the NSAC’s January 29, 2019 order to issue Mr. Jones a single fight license and, as such, the findings will not preclude him from competing on March 2, 2019,” the NAC statement read. “Mr. Jones will continue to be subject to random drug testing and monitoring so as to assure his continued compliance.”

In addition to NAC testing, Jones is also being drug tested by the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) via VADA and USADA. He has been tested at least nine times since UFC 232 — just about an average of once per week leading into his title defense against Smith. Five of them have been clean and four have come back positive for the M3 long-term metabolite.

  • Dec. 28: M3 metabolite (VADA for CSAC)
  • Dec. 29: Clean (USADA, CSAC)
  • Jan. 6: M3 metabolite (VADA for CSAC)
  • Jan. 7: M3 metabolite (VADA for CSAC)
  • Jan. 13: Clean (VADA for CSAC)
  • Feb. 1: Clean (USADA)
  • Feb. 9: Clean (VADA for CSAC)
  • Feb. 14: M3 metabolite (NAC)
  • Feb. 15: M3 metabolite (NAC)
  • Feb. 18: Clean (VADA for NAC)
  • Feb. 23: Pending (USADA)

UFC 232 was moved to the Los Angeles area from Las Vegas in late December after several Jones drug tests from August to December came back positive for the M3 metabolite. The Nevada commission, at that time, was not comfortable with licensing Jones without a proper hearing, which eventually took place Jan. 29. The California commission was more familiar with Jones’ situation because he first tested positive there at UFC 214 in July 2017 and Jones already had a license there.

Jones (23-1, 1 NC) has adamantly denied knowingly taking any banned substances. He was suspended 15 months in his USADA case stemming from the UFC 214 positive test and his knockout win over Daniel Cormier was overturned into a no contest. 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 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.

Jones, an Albuquerque, N.M., resident is regarded as one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time and has never truly lost a fight in the cage, with his lone loss coming via disputed disqualification.

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