After testing positive for the steroid turinabol during an in-competition drug test at UFC 214 Jon Jones exposed himself to a host of potential legal consequences given that this was his second anti-doping infraction in the UFC’s USADA era.
Today McLaren Global Sports Solutions published their arbitration decision revealing Jon Jones’ fate under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy (the “ADP”). He was facing up to a 4 year suspension but in a decision that surprised many Chief Arbitrator Richard McLaren handed Jones a 15 month suspension. The suspension is retroactive clearing Jones to return to the UFC this year.
Even prior to heading to arbitration it was revealed that Jones and USADA reached a deal that Jones’ 4 year suspension be reduced by 30 months. That decision was not subject to review or challenge in the arbitration. More on this below.
The Arbitration focused on the remaining 18 months. USADA argued Jones should be suspended for the full term. Jones argued that this term should be reduced to only 12 months as allowed by article 10.5.2 of the ADP which provides that “the otherwise applicable period of Ineligibility may be reduced based on the Athlete or other Person’s degree of Fault, but the reduced period of Ineligibility may not be less than one quarter of the period of Ineligibility otherwise applicable.”
Jones argued that he was not at fault and his suspension should be reduced. He largely prevailed in his argument securing a reduction to 15 months with Arbitrator McLaren noting that while Jones could not identify the source of how the banned substance entered his body that did not prevent him from seeking a reduction under section 10.5.2.
McLaren went on to provide the following exonerating statement about Jones’ conduct –
“7.17 I find that all of the evidence available to me leads me to conclude that the violation was not intended nor could it have enhanced the Athlete’s performance. There was absolutely no intention to use Prohibited Substances on the part of the Athlete. Other factores referred to in the definition of fault include the perceived level of risk and the level of care and investigation that should have been exercised in relation to the perceived level of risk. In that respect, the Athlete took considerable additional steps outlined above in the Evidence to try and ensure that he never had another positive test for a Prohibited Substance while using supplements. He assumed incorrectly that he was using USADA approved supplements. The fact is that USADA lists supplements highly likely to be contaminated but does not ever approve supplements. The Athlete or his representatives ought to have recognized that mistaken assumption. This has to be part of his acceptance of a degree of Fault as stipulated in the Agreement.”
Of more interest, however, is how Jones persuaded USADA to reduce his suspension by 30 months in the first place. This occured by Jones providing USADA “substantial assistance” with respect to the conduct of others. The arbitration decision is redacted and the full details of this assistance are not publicly known. What is known, however, is what is required to secure a reduction for assistance. This is spelled out in s. 10.6.1 of the ADP and requires assistance that
“results in: (i) USADA or another Anti-Doping Organization discovering or bringing forward an
Anti-Doping Policy Violation by another Person and
the information provided by the Person providing
Substantial Assistance is made available to USADA,
or (ii) which results in a criminal or disciplinary body
discovering or bringing forward a criminal offense or
the breach of professional rules committed by another
Person and the information provided by the Person
providing Substantial Assistance is made available to
In short, Jones secured the majority of his reduced suspension by providing assistance to USADA or other authorities that will lead to criminal charges or disciplinary charges against others.