At issue is a Dec. 9 sample from Jones that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which administers the UFC’s drug-testing program, flagged as containing a metabolite of a steroid known as Turinabol. That’s the same banned substance that caused Jones to fail a test after defeating Daniel Cormier for the light heavyweight crown at UFC 214 in July 2017, resulting the nullification of his win and a 15-month suspension that ended in October.
According to a USADA statement Sunday, though, the discovery of the metabolite might not reflect a new doping violation but rather an echo of the previous ingestion. The agency said it “concluded that the extremely low level” of the metabolite found in Jones “is consistent with residual amounts from his prior exposure for which he was previously sanctioned.”
“I believe that Jon Jones is clean,” Dana White, the UFC president who has been extremely critical of Jones in the past, said on Sunday (via MMA Junkie). “He’s in fight shape, and I believe that he’s been doing the right thing.”
The Nevada State Athletic Commission, however, wants to examine the test results and won’t sign off on Jones competing in its state until he meets with the body in early 2019. The agency did let Jones withdraw his application, and since he was cleared by the California State Athletic Commission earlier this month, the UFC is moving his fight card to L.A.
To help his case, Jones flew to California on Saturday to provide another sample for testing (per ESPN). He reportedly was informed Sunday that he came up clean, with CSAC executive director Andy Foster saying, “It’s that same old crap that he’s already ingested. I can only go by what the scientists tell me, and I have multiple who are telling me there is no new injection.”
“There’s been no violation of the anti-doping program,” the UFC’s vice president of athlete health and performance, Jeff Novitzky, said to reporters on Sunday. “He’s been cleared to fight in terms of the USADA program. … USADA fully analyzed it internally. They reached out to outside experts from around the world. They reached out to another sports league that has seen the same issue. And all of them, independent of us, determined that this was not a re-ingestion of the substance and this very, very small amount that was occurring and still showing up, according to these experts from around the world, did not provide any performance-enhancing benefit."
Less convinced of Jones’s innocence was Cormier, his bitter rival for many years who has held and defended the light heavyweight belt in his absence, as well as other notable MMA figures. Cormier described each of the USADA, Foster and Novitzky as a “joke” on Twitter Sunday, exclaiming, “He tested positive again!”
For his part, Jones said on Twitter that he was “focused on achieving my ultimate goal of reclaiming my Light Heavyweight title.” He added, “I have willingly submitted to every USADA test in the lead up to this fight and USADA has confirmed what I’ve been saying all along, that I’m a clean athlete,” and thanked Foster and the CSAC for “doing the right thing and supporting me through this process.”
“Who’s made more mistakes than Jon Jones? The answer is nobody,” said White, referring to the fighter’s multiple failed drug tests, as well as past legal woes. “Jon Jones has got his life together and he did not test positive. He did not do anything wrong here. Gustafsson has flown in from Sweden, been here weeks training for this fight. Jon Jones has trained for this fight.
"Neither guy violated any rules or did anything wrong. These guys need to fight, it’s for the title. This is the right thing to do.”
Jones (22-1) previously defeated Gustafsson (18-4) in 2013, in a battle that drew fight-of-the-year accolades. With Cormier having added the heavyweight belt and being more concerned with defending that, the UFC has indicated it will strip him of the light heavyweight title and award it to the winner of Jones-Gustafsson 2.
White said that tickets for UFC 232 will go on sale Wednesday, and that anyone who paid to see the event in Las Vegas can get a full refund.