“Game. Set. Match,” was the verdict from former UFC heavyweight and “The Fighter and the Kid” co-host Brendan Schaub.
Except, well, not really.
In the world of anti-doping, it’s extremely rare for a “B” sample to come back different than the initial result. The sample an athlete gives during a drug test is divided into two parts so that if the first sample tests positive, the second can be tested to “confirm” the first result. Barring a massive conspiracy where the second sample is fraudulent, you’re almost always going to get the same result.Related Twitter reacts to UFC champ Jon Jones' B-sample drug-test failure – and the takes are extra hot
So, this is the second step in Jones’ case. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency now has found that on July 28, one day prior to UFC 214, he tested positive for a metabolite of turinabol, a banned substance made famous for its use in an East German doping program (you can read more about it here). But that’s just the start of the process.
Even though Jones’ (21-1-1 MMA, 15-1-1 UFC) win over Daniel Cormier (19-1-1 MMA, 8-1-1 UFC) was overturned today by the California State Athletic Commission, he is still entitled to due process in the “results management” portion of his case with both CSAC and USADA. He can decide whether to dispute the findings, or accept them and plead for leniency. His reps have all but declared he will do the former, using the same defense he did when a pre-fight drug test revealed the presence of two banned estrogen blockers known to work in tandem with steroids.
In his first run-in with USADA, which stemmed from a failed test at UFC 200, Jones chose to have an arbitrator weigh the facts of his case and decide whether the facts he presented – that he unknowingly broke the rules by ingesting an off-brand sexual enhancement pill tainted with the banned drugs – were strong enough to lessen or eliminate the punishment recommended by the UFC’s anti-doping partner.RelatedMichael Bisping: Jon Jones deserves lifetime ban from MMA after 2nd failed drug test
After a non-public hearing, he won a partial victory when the arbitrator stopped short of calling him a cheater. But he was still found to be at fault for his negligence in taking the pill in the first place and suspended one year, the punishment USADA recommended initially. The Nevada State Athletic Commission, which regulated UFC 200, followed suit.
The next few weeks – and probably more like the next few months – will be occupied by fact-finding in the Jones camp. They’ll have all of his supplements tested. They’ll forward possible culprits to USADA. And perhaps most importantly, they’ll craft a narrative for why a very old steroid found its way into Jones’ system one day prior to his title fight against Daniel Cormier on July 29.
Jones’ anti-doping attorney, Howard Jacobs, needs a very compelling story to explain how this happened yet again to the 30-year-old fighter, who’s been subject to the UFC’s anti-doping program since it began in July 2015.RelatedTwitter Mailbag: Is Jon Jones now the biggest screw-up in MMA history?
There are some potentially meaningful facts in Jones’ second positive. He did pass two tests on July 6 and July 7. He also passed a blood test conducted on fight night, though blood tests don’t screen for the steroid found in his system on the eve of the event.
As UFC VP of Athlete Relations Jeff Novitzky pointed out to Yahoo Sports, the steroid Jones popped for can be detected in the body for up to 60 days, so “it would not be a drug of choice if you had any level of sophistication,” he said.
Given Jones’ past inside and outside of the cage, that’s not a ringing endorsement. Still, Novitzky and USADA are wise to urge caution as the process plays out. More than likely, USADA and Jones will head to arbitration, make their respective cases, and a decision will be rendered.RelatedJon Jones issues cryptic tweet one week after second drug fail
Because this is Jones’ second potential anti-doping violation, he does not arrive at the negotiating table with a clean slate. The arbitrator will take into consideration his history when deciding his punishment.
Jones faces up to a potentially career-ending four-year ban if the arbitrator upholds USADA’s findings, so the stakes can’t be higher.
It’s hard to argue things look very bad. For many, the idea that Jones is the unluckiest guy in the MMA world strains credulity. More likely is the idea that he’s repeatedly broken the rules.
But until the final decision is handed down, you can’t write him off just yet.