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Jon Jones feels exonerated due to USADA rule changes after being branded ‘steroid cheat’

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Jon Jones can’t change history, but he still feels a sense of vindication after he was branded a cheater due to positive drug tests that sidelined him for over one year and cost him a win over Daniel Cormier at UFC 214.

Jones explained a recent tweet where he said he felt “officially cleared” were largely due to rules changes implemented by the United States Anti-Doping Agency. The ex-light heavyweight champ served a lengthy suspension following test results that showed trace amounts of oral turinabol — an anabolic steroid — in his system. He maintained his innocence throughout the process but was eventually suspended for 15 months by the UFC’s anti-doping partner.

Just over one year later, USADA announced major rules changes regarding the threshold levels for certain drugs that result in a test being flagged, which could lead to a potential punishment.

Based on the new thresholds set in 2019 at 0.1 ng/mL for the long term metabolite (M3) in Dehydrochloromethyltestosterone (DHCMT, or oral turinabol) — the metabolite that flagged Jones — none of his prior samples would have been flagged as illegal.

“USADA has changed some of the rules regarding picogram levels and what’s allowed, and I’ve come to find out that all my findings were under the new legal limit, meaning I would have been cleared from every test I’ve ever taken,” Jones said during UFC 285 media day. “That means a lot to me.

“I’m grateful to be the athlete who fought the system, who could afford the lawyers and the scientists to prove my innocence. I don’t know if I carried the cross or took the bullet for the rest of all the young athletes, but I was the first to have to go through it. People considered me a cheater. Now, if that same rule would have applied back then, it would have never even made the media. It would have never been a deal at all. My win over Daniel Cormier would not be a no contest. It would be a knockout. A KO victory.”

Jones knocked out Cormier in their 2017 rematch. But the result was eventually overturned by the California State Athletic Commission to a no-contest due to the positive drug test returned at the time.

Under the new rules, Jones’ samples would have been investigated by USADA, but he wouldn’t face any undue punishment unless the drug use was discovered to be intentional.

“I’m hoping that with these rule changes maybe we can go back and make that no-contest a win,” Jones said about his rematch with Cormier. “That would mean a lot to me.

“I have no ill will towards USADA or anything like that, it was just something we needed to go through. I was the first one, but one of the biggest names to go through it. I’m glad I did because some of these younger fighters wouldn’t have been able to survive something like that. They would have just been cut, or not been able to afford the lawyers or whatever.”

Jones’ 2017 positive was not his first anti-doping violation. He also had one on his record from 2016, when before UFC 200 he tested positive for clomiphene and letrozole, a pair of banned substances under USADA. He was subsequently suspended from the sport for one year.

Despite his history, Jones feels exonerated from the accusations that he was using steroids.

Jones’ case along with other high profile incidents involving oral turinabol, most notably athletes competing in Major League Baseball that also led to another rule change in that sport for doping violations, changed how testing and results are perceived.

Jones may never get that no-contest changed on his record, but he is still happy that he battled to prove his innocence, which likely helped lead to the rules being amended.

“I took the bullet for this sport, for Major League Baseball, and I’m glad that the fighters in the future get to avoid what I went through,” Jones said.

“It was hell being considered a steroid cheat, and I’m glad that people can see clearly now that I never was, and I feel set free.”

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