Does positive drug test signal the end for Jon Jones?
“Suck one” is the message Jon Jones tweeted to his ‘haters’ last week; a sentiment he has shared throughout his career with anyone who suggests he is not a clean fighter.
However, the UFC star may have incriminated himself during a recent California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) hearing.
Awaiting punishment for a failed drug test, the former champion admitted to having his management forge signatures on documents relating to anti-doping enforcement.
At the age of 30, and with his career dogged by plenty of other controversies, Jones’s time among MMA’s elite might well be ended by a lengthy ban.
This latest episode relates to a positive urine sample he submitted prior to his eagerly anticipated rematch with Daniel Cormier at UFC 214 of last year.
Appearing before a panel of six CSAC commissioners, Jones appeared visibly nervous.
Having only returned from a 12-month drugs suspension last summer, he’s all too familiar with being on the ropes (to use a boxing metaphor).
The hearing resulted in his licence being revoked, but Jones was told he can re-apply for in a year. To get it back, Commissioner Shen-Urquidez said the CSAC would need to see evidence of rehabilitation.
However, Jones also has to answer to the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which might well decide that he deserves a ban of up to four years.
So how exactly how did metabolites of the anabolic steroid turanibol get into his urine?
Sitting in front of his manager, wearing a plain white polo and the look of ‘It wasn’t me’, Jones requested that he begin with a statement before stumbling and quickly changing his mind.
“I’m sorry it’s just… where do I start?” he asked plaintively.
Instead, Team Jones decided his attorney Howard Jacobs would ask him a series of questions about the weeks leading up to and following the test.
“You can call me many things; a party boy, a wild man, a knucklehead… but being a cheater is something I’ll never admit to,” the two-time UFC light-heavyweight title-holder said. “[It’s]…something I’ll never say that I am.”
Jones has been before his fair share of these panels. His rap sheet also includes hitting a pregnant woman in his car and then fleeing the scene in April 2015.
There’s no doubting he is a substantial talent, but one that’s been hampered over the years by a severe lack in judgement.
The youngest of the three brothers, his talent undoubtedly has strong genetic foundations; his siblings are both NFL players.
A supreme athlete and technician inside the cage, Jones finds the perfect balance between crazy and calculated, speed and strength. He has is possessed by an overwhelming and incessant urge to win.
Having never been beaten in the octagon, aside from a disqualification to Matt Hamill, perhaps aligning himself with the laws of the land was always going to be his greatest challenge.
Jones and Mr Jacobs shared a fairly unconvincing back and forth, outlining the dubious precautions that his team took in the lead-up to the Cormier fight, before handing over to the panel.
The cross examination indicated quite clearly the commission’s wishes. They wanted to see Jones point towards an explanation, some sort of reasoning as to why he tested positive – if conscious consumption of the substance was as ridiculous as he suggested.
Jones failed to make a compelling case, however. At one point even suggesting sabotage from inside his circle. Surely not?
His answer to most of the questions was to repeatedly deny ever taking the drug, citing “common sense” as his key disposition. Although CSAC executive officer Andy Foster expressed sympathy, he made his point well with a pithy“…and yet, here we are.”
In hindsight, Jones’s testimony was destined for a squeeze into submission the moment commissioner Martha Shen-Urquidez’s took the mic.
She began her questioning with a polite “Good morning, Mr Jones,” accompanied by a wry smile.
What followed was a damning assessment on what she described at one point as “a continual lack of diligence and responsibility”.
Clearly having done her homework, the commissioner pitched hard balls for the best part of 30 minutes.
“The UFC gave you a Bentley. Which you wrapped round a utility pole. Correct?”
Oh, Jon. I’d actually forgotten about that one.
She even had the UFC’s unconquerable talent admit to having never disclosed 10 supplements to USADA, despite him signing a document specifying that he had. The supplements only came to light when submitted for banned substance testing, post-positive test.
“You’re saying all 10 supplement weren’t listed? Probably like fish oil and protein?” said Jones.
“… and endura, melalite and…” continued Shen-Urquidez.
“Very healthy things people should take,” Jones mumbled nervously.
The last line of a shaky defence crumbled when a thread of questioning intended to rob Jones of his ‘USADA-oblivious narrative’, led to the assertion that Jones, in fact, took part in an online USADA training programme.
His response was: “I’m going to be honest with you guys. I never did that. My management did that for me.”
Cut to Jones’s manager sat behind him, now looking rather uncomfortable.
“I’m just here to be super honest and open with you guys,” he added.
When Jones was asked to clarify whether the signature had been forged on his behalf, he confirmed this.
His intention seemed to be to over-compensate with honesty in the hope it would equate to leniency from the commission. But with the definitive USADA hearing into his case to be held within the next few weeks, this strategy was questionable.
Despite imposing a maximum fine of $205,000 and revoking his licence, ultimately the Commission’s verdict seemed to be that of faith in USADA’s process and final judgement.
It will be the second time the Agency and Jones have collided in as many years, typically meaning the doubling of a previous sentence. Which in this case would suggest a four-year suspension in the prime of his career.
Would a 34-year-old Jones be able to reclaim his mantle?
It is, however, USADA policy that mitigating and aggravating factors are considered in a case of this nature. However, it’s hard to imagine Jones’s admission to having had his management complete his online training has helped his cause.
“Have you considered a change in management?”
It was clear from the commission’s comments that any sign of character rehabilitation would’ve gone a long way.
Instead when questioned on the subject, Jones appeared lost in the line of questioning. Commissioner John Carvelli echoed that point and suggested a crack in his foundations.
“You’ve been asked time and time again to show evidence of changes you’ve made based on the things that keep happening to you. I see no changes.
“Have you considered a change in management?”
Jones turned to his manager and joked about his sacking.
“Yes, I have actually. A few times.”
Jones’ flippant nature seems to be the bedrock of his problems. His lack of preparation and whimsical approach may well have buried his career this time.
An inability to see past the end of his nose and take responsibility for his actions may have cost him the “immortality” we hear him speak of increasingly.
Talk of heavyweight title fighting has cooled and a ‘super fight’ with Brock Lesnar may now just be an opportunity missed.
But rest assured that Jones’ ‘the fairies did it’ argument won’t hold up in front of USADA.