In just over a month, Jon Jones, the former UFC Light Heavyweight champion, will be eligible to compete again, which was announced earlier this week by USADA, determining that a 15-month retroactive suspension is appropriate for his second PED violation.
A second PED violation could lead to a 4-year suspension from competition so how exactly did Jon Jones get such a short ban from the sport?
The answer is sadly a combination of greed and corruption.
After years of rumors about some mixed martial arts fighters using performance enhancing substances, the UFC announced its testing program in association with USADA in 2015. Not surprisingly, there were more fighters flagged for potential violations since that time, and coincidentally, some fighters ability decreased significantly afterwards. For example, Johnny Hendricks, former contender in the welterweight division, went 1-6 in the octagon after the start of the USADA program in the UFC.
The anti-doping association can clearly be effective.
That’s why this ruling for Jon Jones and the motivation behind is so puzzling. “Bones” Jones has made headlines throughout his entire career, starting with his victory against the legendary Shogun Rua in 2011 to claim the 205 LBS championship and become the youngest champion in the history of the organization. Since that time, “Bones” made headlines for all the wrong reasons and is arguably more well-known for his mishaps outside of the cage than his accomplishments in the sport. The first of his laundry list of legal problems was when he was arrested for DUI after he hit a pole in 2012. He tested positive for cocaine in an out-of-competition test prior to his fight against Daniel Cormier in early 2015.
Just three months later, Jones was involved in a hit-and-run incident when he run a red light, hitting another car before he fled the scene of the accident. Drug paraphernalia was found in the car and he was eventually sentenced to probation for leaving the scene. The legal problems prompted UFC management to strip him of the light heavyweight title.
He finally returned to the octagon in April of 2016, defeating Ovince Saint Preux to claim an interim championship, setting up a unification fight against Cormier for UFC 200. Just a month before he was scheduled to compete again, “Bones” was cited for driving without a license, but that didn’t affect his status to fight. However, a few days before UFC 200, it was announced that Jones tested positive for PEDs and the Cormier rematch was cancelled. Again, UFC brass stripped him of a championship.
As a result of the failed test, Jones was suspended for a year. When he finally returned to the cage for the Cormier rematch last year, he won the fight via a head kick in the third round and touted his redemption story during a post-fight interview. A few weeks later, it was revealed that Jones failed the post-fight drug test for PEDs. The contest was overturned to a no contest and he was stripped of the championship for the third time in his career.
The California State Athletic Commission hearing earlier this year did “Bones” no favors when he couldn’t explain how an anabolic steroid got into his system and he admitted the he didn’t complete the required online courses that USADA provides for athletes, but rather that his management did it for him. The commission stated that they would allow USADA to determine the penalty for Jones, which most expected to be at least a two-year ban and that was if the anti-doping association believed Jones’ excuse that he unknowingly took the PED.
A tainted supplement is possible, but at this point in his career, Jon Jones doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt in these situations. The DUI and hit-and-run scenarios prove that he was reckless and irresponsible in the past. Perhaps, a contaminated supplement might happen once, but after a second failed PED test, does someone with the past of “Bones” Jones deserve the benefit of the doubt?
I usually wouldn’t suggest a conspiracy theory, but something is corrupt about the 15-month retroactive ban that Jones was given for this violation. I’m not saying that the UFC was directly involved, but keep in mind, USADA was hired by the UFC so it certainly seems like there could be a conflict of interest when the anti-doping organization can make decisions that could directly impact the financial aspect of the company that hires them. As mentioned, Jones was suspended for a year after his initial failed test so how exactly did he only get an extra three months for a second violation? Other fighters that failed two tests were suspended for two years so how did Jon Jones get 15-months for the same violation?
The answer is probably that Jon Jones is a bigger name that can draw bigger money for everyone involved when he fights on pay-per-view so he was given a shorter ban to allow the UFC to generate revenue from his bouts. However, “Bones” Jones’ status shouldn’t affect his ban because a violation of the rules is a violation regardless of what fighter fails a test. Obviously, MMA is a very dangerous sport and failed PED tests should be taken very seriously by the UFC. Considering this was a USADA, not UFC decision, it would be reasonable,at this point to question the credibility of the anti-doping organization.
The guidelines for a second failed test suggest at least a ban of a few years from the sport. If Jon Jones fails another test, is it possible that USADA doesn’t report it to allow the company that hired them to continue to cash-in on his fights?
It’s completely possible that the UFC isn’t involved in this corruption, but isn’t it convenient that Jon Jones will be eligible to fight just a few months before Brock Lesnar is scheduled to return to the UFC? Remember, “Bones” said during a post-fight interview last year that he wanted to fight Lesnar, and despite Brock’s confrontation with Daniel Cormier earlier this year, the general consensus is that Lesnar/Jones will draw more money. Who knows how Jon Jones was only given a 15-month suspension, but it’s very disappointing to see that potential profits are the propriety instead of the credibility of the sport.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
E mail firstname.lastname@example.org | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta