Can Jon Jones Be Sued For Financial Fall Out From His USADA Test?

Today it was announced that “the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has informed Jon Jones of a potential Anti-Doping Policy violation stemming from an out-of-competition sample collection on June 16, 2016.”

This resulted in Jones being withdrawn from headlining UFC 200, an event that is expected to reach if not exceed UFC Pay Per View records.

This turn of events will undoubtedly lead to financial fall out to people other than Jones.

Nevada law, specifically NAC 467.255 holds that if an advertised main event is changed “any patron desires to have the price of his or her ticket refunded, the promoter must refund the patron’s money if the patron presents the ticket or the ticket stub at the box office before the opening contest or exhibition of the program is scheduled to begin. The box office must remain open a reasonable length of time to redeem such tickets.”

To the extent that patrons return tickets the UFC will lose money.  The UFC have the ability to directly fine athletes who commit Anti Doping violations with section 10.10 of the UFC/USADA Anti Doping policy providing the following powers –

UFC may impose a fine on an Athlete or other Person who commits an Anti-Doping Policy Violation up to the sum of $500,000 depending on the seriousness of the violation and the relative compensation of the Athlete or other Person

I am not aware of any reports of this clause being exercised since coming into force but the Jones situation may very will be the first to tempt the UFC to exercise this power.

In addition to the UFC’s potential financial losses,  Jon Jones’ scheduled opponent, Daniel Cormier, may not find (or be willing to accept) a replacement opponent on short notice prior to this flagship event.

I am not privy to Cormier’s contract but if he has a provision providing increased compensation on the number of pay per view sales of a card he competes in he can be out a lot of money.  This is prize fighting after all and this turn of events may deprive him of a substantial prize.  When Eddie Alvarez’s UFC Contract became public through litigation it was revealed to have the following clause:

For combined Pay-Per-View Provider buys purchased within thirty (30) days of the live event, Fighter shall receive One dollar ($1.00) for each pay-per-view buy between 200,000 buys and 400,000 buys; and Two dollars ($2.00) for each pay-per-view buy between 400,000 buys and 600,000 buys; and Two dollars and Fifty Cents ($2.50) for each pay-per-view buy over 600,000 buys

So what kind of losses are we talking about?  Let’s assume Cormier has this clause in his contract and let’s assume UFC 200 hits 2 million PPV buys; Cormier’s losses would be $4.1 million over and above his contracted ‘show’ money.

The next question is can Jones be liable for these financial losses?  It is too early to know for certain as it is unclear what substance Jones allegedly tested for and due process has not played out.  Perhaps there is no violation at all but assuming he intentionally ingested a banned substance legal actions for damages are not unprecedented.

In 2014 the US District Court, Southern District of New York, held that a promoter can be liable to a co-promoter if a bout falls apart due to PED usage from their athlete.  It is not a stretch, depending on how the facts play out, for this reasoning to be extended to Jones.  The full case can be found here.

Depending on the circumstances the legal fall out for Jones can be far reaching, from USADA imposed suspension, to an NSAC suspension, a UFC fine of up to $500,000, potential probation violation to potential civil litigation.  Combat sports athletes, UFC athletes in particular, must understand this is a brave new world of Anti-Doping and violations can come with numerous steep consequences.

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