The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which administers the UFC’s drug-testing program, said in a statement that it had informed Jon Jones of “a potential Anti-Doping Policy violation stemming from an in-competition sample collected following his weigh-in on July 28.” That was a day before Jones defeated Cormier in a third-round technical knockout, seeming to cap a comeback from previous drug-related punishments and other legal issues.
“We are all at a complete loss for words right now,” a representative for Jones said in a statement (via ESPN). “Jon, his trainers, his nutritionists and his entire camp have worked tirelessly and meticulously the past 12 months to avoid this exact situation. We are having the samples tested again to determine the validity or source of contamination.
“Jon is crushed by this news and we are doing whatever we can as a team to support him.”
TMZ reported the substance was Turinabol, an anabolic steroid, the use of which mandates a two-year suspension by USADA for first-time offenders. Given that Jones, 30, recently served a one-year suspension for a doping violation, he could be looking at a four-year ban and the possible end of his career.
Jones and Cormier had been set to square off in a headlining, championship bout at UFC 200, which took place July 2016 in Anaheim, but Jones was pulled just before the fight after testing positive for two banned anti-estrogenic agents. While Cormier defeated a last-minute substitute, Anderson Silva, in a nontitle bout, Jones tearfully told reporters he ingested the substances by mistake.
“I’ve been so outspoken about being against any type of performance enhancer. I’m still to this day against any type of performance enhancer. Being labeled as someone who would cheat hurts me more than anything else I’ve ever been through in my career,” Jones said at the time.
That infraction led to Jones’s one-year ban, which ended in time for him to have his long-awaited rematch with Cormier. The two archrivals, who have maintained a war of words for years, had their first fight at UFC 182 in January 2015, which Jones won. He was subsequently revealed to have tested positive for traces of cocaine in an out-of-competition test before the fight, but although he was fined $25,000 by the UFC, he was allowed to keep the light heavyweight belt.
In April, Jones was stripped of his title and suspended indefinitely for his role in a hit-and-run incident in Albuquerque, where he trains, and Cormier won the light heavyweight belt in his absence. Later that year, Jones pleaded guilty but avoided jail time and was reinstated by the UFC, enabling him to face Cormier at UFC 197 in April 2016. However, Cormier injured himself while training, leaving Jones to defeat Ovince Saint Preux by unanimous decision in the event.
In the wake of the recent failed test, Jones has been indefinitely suspended again, according to MMA Fighting. If he is stripped of his title, it would revert to Cormier, who asked of his antagonist before July’s fight, “Is this guy going to mess this up again by doing steroids, or snorting cocaine or sandblasting prostitutes? What’s this guy going to do to mess this up this time?”
Following Cormier’s comments, Jones posted a message to social media in which he said, “Daniel says the only reason I defeated him the first time is because I must have been on steroids, wonder what his excuse will be this time.”
“It’s hard to find words to describe how I’m feeling right now,” Cormier said in a statement Tuesday (via MMA Fighting). “I’m disappointed to hear the news. It’s very emotional.
“We as athletes are entitled to due process, and I will refrain from saying much more until I know exactly what happened.
“In my mind, on July 29, I competed and I lost. I thought Jon Jones was the better man that day,” Cormier continued. “I don’t know what to think anymore. I can’t believe we are going through all of this again. We will see what happens next.”
Jones, who became the youngest champion in UFC history in 2011, is regarded by some as the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in MMA history. He has the right to have his “B” sample tested by USADA, and he can appeal the agency’s finding, with the California State Athletic Commission also holding jurisdiction in the matter.