Why Nevada Was Within Their Rights on the Jon Jones Situation

Earlier this week the Nevada Athletic Commission granted Jon Jones a one fight licence clearing him to compete on March 2, 2019 at UFC 235.

Last month Jones was scheduled to compete in Nevada for UFC 232 but the event was swiftly moved to California after USADA, the UFC’s privately contracted anti-doping watchdog, notified the Nevada Athletic Commission that Jones tested positive for a metabolite of DHCMT in an out of competition sample take on December 9, 2018.  California was prepared to recognize this adverse finding as residue from Jones’ positive test from July 2017, a doping violation Jones was already punished for with a sanction from both California and a 15 month USADA suspension.  Nevada would not licence him without a hearing and did not have enough time to do so hence the venue swap.

Nevada did, however, have jurisdiction to deal with Jones with respect to this failed drug test.  Nevada has very strict standards for anti-doping violations with a first offence calling for 9-24 month suspension, this range is doubled for a second violation.  A third violation calls for a n 18 month to lifetime ban.

On strict application of Nevada’s anti-doping regulations Jones did indeed commit a third anti doping violation.  Despite this Nevada was within their rights to grant Jones a license.   Here’s the regulatory breakdown –

NAC 467.571 defines an anti-doping violation.  This section notes that if a qualified lab “identifies the presence of a prohibited substance or its metabolites or markers in the sample or specimen, the unarmed combatant has committed an anti-doping violation and is subject to disciplinary action by the Commission. “.  On the plain reading of this section Jones did commit doping violation with his positive December 2018 sample.

From a punishment perspective the Nevada Athletic Commission is directed to NAC 467.571(4) which notes that the combatant should be “ineligible to engage in unarmed combat in this State for a period of at least 9 months but not more than 24 months” and if this is found to be a third violation NAC 467 dictates that Jones be handed “a period of at least 18 months up to lifetime ineligibility“.

So how can the NAC not punish a clear anti-doping violation?  Enter NAC 467.582 which gives broad discretion to Nevada to not punish what would otherwise be a violation.  Specifically this section allows the commission to “eliminate a period of ineligibility…if the Commission finds one or more mitigating circumstances”

Mitigating Circumstances” are defined open endedly and “exist when the conditions, events or facts accompanying an anti-doping violation reduce or eliminate the culpability of the person who committed the anti-doping violation.”  This section is worded so broadly that it does allow the NAC to find the recent test for M3 metabolites to be consistent with not a stand alone new doping violation but as the ‘pulsing’ residue from an event he was already punished for.

Whatever controversy surrounds Jon Jones and his past doping violations, from a regulatory perspective Nevada was free to exercise their discretion as they did in this case.

 

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