The Rickety Old Shack

Jon Jones' CSAC Hearing Probably Could Not Have Gone Worse

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It's been some time now, since the drug test results came back from UFC 214, and Jon Jones was provisionally suspended by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) after testing positive for Turinabol. The UFC very quickly stripped Jones of his light heavyweight title, which he reclaimed at the event by knocking out Daniel Cormier. In addition to USADA, the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) also had their role to play in the process, as they oversaw the event in question. Jones still has to complete the USADA review process, but if fans were hoping that his day in court would provide any sort of exhoneration, that certainly did not happen.

To be blunt: Jon Jones offered little in the way of a defence or explanation of his positive drug test. The 'B' sample was checked, and also came back positive months ago, so the veracity of the tests were not in dispute. So Jones came to this meeting with no real defence, and was just hoping to receive some leniency. The closest thing to a defence that Jones put forward was an expert witness who could do little more than suggest that using Turinabol for a very brief window makes no sense in terms of producing an effect, and the timing didn't make sense from a logical standpoint. While it is true that Jones only failed one test, which was bookended by other clean tests, the CSAC correctly stated that there is no reliable information on detection windows for the substance. Jones' expert had little else to offer, beyond notes cribbed from bodybuilding websites and the assertion that no one who knew what they were doing would take Turinabol when Jones did.

While somewhat novel, the "if I was going to cheat, don't you think I would have been smarter?" defence is rather shoddy. For starters, no, I don't necessarily think Jon Jones would have "been smarter." This is an individual who has a storied history of indiscretions, including driving under the influence, fleeing the scene of a car accident he caused, getting into a heated verbal confrontation with a police officer while on parole, and a previous positive drug test which was proven to be the result of a contaminated substance. The last item is especially relevant because USADA did accept that contaminated supplements (read: "dick pills") were the culprit — and helped prove this with lab tests — they also admonished Jones for his lack of due dilligence in sourcing said "dick pills." In every past instance of trouble, Jon Jones has been granted a lot of slack under the auspices that "it was a mistake and I'm learning." To his credit, Jon Jones did pass a polygraph test! Unfotunately such tests are about as reliable a Tarot cards, tea leaves or steaming goat entrails, but give the man credit for trying.

Whether Jones is incapable of learning from these experiences, or truly uninterested in changing his ways remains to be seen — and the truth is probably some combination of both — but we are well beyond the youthful indiscretion stage. Jon Jones has a history of destroying his own career by way of his terrible judgment; for as good as Jones is at mixed martial arts, he seems equally skilled at sabotaging his life. Jones' testimony was a mixture of unhelpful and downright detrimental to whatever case he intends to plead to USADA when the time comes. After his expert tried the "common sense" defence, and rattled off some hasty notes from the forums, Jones offered a recounting of his past 'mistakes' and stated that he simply does not know how the drug got into his system.

As he continued to talk, Jones also shot himself in the foot by stating that he did not actually take the USADA training courses mandated to all fighters, claiming his manager signed his name to the related paperwork. To be clear: after already getting a deal on his last drug test failure, where he was specifically called "reckless," Jones stated that he not only failed to do due diligence again, but actively avoided doing it. Furthermore, Jones' pre-fight questionnaire — which is routinely used by athletic commissions in such hearings — listed none of the purported 15 supplements Jones claimed to be taking leading up to the fight. A claim that his management ensured the supplements were "USADA approved" seemed dubious, as the organisation does not offer approvals but rather an ever-updated list of supplements to avoid — as a guideline, not a definitive document. More shirking of responsibility to parties already proven to be engaged in questionable behaviour.

Unsurprisingly, the CSAC saw fit to revoke Jones' licence and fined him 40% of his fight purse, while leaving the suspension in the hands of USADA. Jones' testimony was a very poor accounting; he offered no real defence or explanation, tried to shirk any blame for this second test failure, and even seemed somewhat reluctant to acknowledge that he'd been given a lot of breaks in the past. There was nothing about Jones' demeanor or testimony that helped his case, and a whole lot that undermined it. At the end — after trying to shift the blame for vetting his supplements to his management — he was even asked if he was considering getting new management, and joked about it with his manager, Malki Kawa, who was present. Without any explanation for the positive test, Jones needed to do damage control and, instead, did the literal opposite — and may make his USADA review more unpleasant given some of his revelations.

CSAC director Andy Foster stated that he did believe Jones' statement, that he did not intentionally cheat, and that may well be true, but all signs currently point to Jones being suspended for a very long time. Ultimately, that determination is up to USADA, but the facts of the matter appear to be grim. There is still a chance that some sort of reduced sentence is handed down, but the available information doesn't make those odds very good. It would be unfortunate, to say that least, if the best fighter the sport of MMA has ever seen is relegated to the sidelines over a miniscule amount of a bottom-tier steroid.

It would also be so very MMA, and even moreso in line with the image Jon Jones has cultivated for himself.

—by Derek

Published: February 27th, 2018.