UFC fighters used to get tested only by the State, Provincial, or Tribal athletic commission regulating where ever the fight took place. For fights in an area without a government commission, the UFC did the testing itself. When the UFC selected the UFC Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) as their independent testing agency, fighters potentially became subject to two different groups, potentially with different punishments.
If a USADA test is random, and the fighter has no bout scheduled, it is handled exclusively by USADA. However, if the test failure is close a fight, AC punishment can apply as well.
Former UFC light heavyweight Jon Jones failed a PED test shortly before UFC 200, and was pulled from the unification fight with champion Daniel Cormier.
However, Jones tested positive only for Hydroxy-clomiphene and Letrozole, two estrogen blockers that are sometimes used following a cycle of steroids to restore normal function. USADA categorizes these as “specified substances,” due to the greater likelihood of a “credible non-doping explanation” for a test failure. The penalty for knowingly taking a PED for the first time is a two-year suspension. The penalty for testing positive for a “specified substance” ranges from a public warning to a maximum one-year suspension.
There have been multiple indications that Jones’ test was due to taking generic Cialis. He became the first fighter to make use of USADA’s arbitration option; unfortunately, the independent, three-person arbitration panel gave Jones the full, maximum one-year suspension. The ban is retroactive to the positive test, so Jones will be eligible to return on July 6, 2017.
The panel’s reasoning is exhaustively detailed here. In short, they felt Jones did not do his due diligence in determining whether or not the pill was prohibited.
That would have been an interesting call, as imagined by UGer EnderinAK.
“I could just see Jon jones calling USADA at 2am,” he wrote. “Hey this is Jonny Bones Jones. I want to take a new pill called Street Overlord, it is the one with two Asian people f***ing on the cover. It doesn’t list any banned ingredients, it is cool if I take it right? It is on a 2 for 1 sale at Tim’s Mini Mart and spirits.”
As absurd as this all seems, Jones is out perhaps $15 million, not for cheating and taking a PED, but for taking a generic Cialis that was tainted with trace elements of something that has no performance enhancing qualities.
Jones also faced a suspension and/or fine from the Nevada Athletic Commission. They had the option of accepting the USADA suspension, administering a more severe one still, or even issuing a lesser suspension. A less punitive punishment would have no practical effect as Jones is contractually bound by the USADA suspension.
Now Ariel Helwani reports for MMA Fighting that the NAC has administered an identical punishment – one year suspension, retroactive to July 6, 2016, the date the results of his June 16 failed drug test were revealed. Jones will not be fined by the NAC. Jones and his legal team are expected to appear in some form at the NAC hearing to formally receive the punishment, on December 15.
These suspensions are not rational.
The UFC hired Jeff Novitzky, who in turn selected USADA, in order to stop fighters from taking PEDs. Mixed martial arts does not have a big problem with fighters inadvertently taking something in a generic boner pill that could in far larger quantities be used at the end of PED cycle to restart formal functioning. Jon Jones didn’t take anything that did anything that improved his athletic performance. What he did might have been dumb, but it wasn’t unethical or illegal. His actions merited a public warning.
Before too long, fighters are going to form a players association or union of some form. When they do, one of the points of negotiation will be penalties for PED use. With abusive punishments like this, there will be a real argument for lessening penalties. They could even be lowered to the laughable level of the NFL, where an athlete failing a PED test faces a four-game suspension. That’s bad for the sport.