Jon Jones has been cleared to fight Anthony Smith at UFC 235 in Las Vegas following a hearing before the Nevada State Athletic Commission on Tuesday.
As part of his licensing, Jones must undergo a rigorous drug testing schedule — at least twice per month minimum — and the UFC light heavyweight champion has to pay for that additional testing through March 2.
The commission also recommended Jones continue to be extensively tested through the end of 2019 so they could study his results.
The lengthy hearing that stretched past three hours featured very little testimony from Jones, although he was in attendance alongside his attorney.
The commission quizzed Jones about his drug test from 2017 that came back positive for Turinabol — an anabolic steroid banned at all times in and out of competition — which he later faced a 15-month suspension for the UFC anti-doping policy infraction.
The main concern for the commission on Tuesday was investigating the constant appearance of the long-term metabolites belonging to Turinabol that have continuously shown up in Jones’ system ever since that initial test came back positive in 2017.
Several drug tests have been flagged from Jones with trace amounts of that same long-term metabolite showing up in his body in testing conducted by USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency).
Jones also returned a positive test for that same long-term metabolite from a sample taken by VADA (Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency) the day before his last fight against Alexander Gustafsson in Dec. 2018.
Dr. Daniel Eichner from the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory (SMRTL) — a WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) accredited laboratory — testified at the hearing to give his expert opinion on Jones’ drug test results.
Dr. Eichner repeated similar statements that he did ahead of Jones’ last fight where he stated that he believed the reigning UFC light heavyweight champion had not ingested Turinabol again but rather his most recent positive drug tests were the result of a ‘pulsing’ effect — essentially leftover amounts of the drug from the initial ingestion prior to July 2017.
USADA also had two representatives there to testify at the hearing including Dr. Matthew Fedoruk, who echoed similar sentiments as his colleague Dr. Eichner about the drug test results that Jones has provided and there was no proof that he re-ingested the banned substance.
The biggest grilling came during the testimony of Jeff Cook, who is the USADA results management and investigations senior director.
Nevada Athletic Commissioner Anthony Marnell took Cook to task over ‘weak and soft’ rules from USADA after the organization did not report Jones’ adverse drug test findings last year after several samples in August and September 2018 were also flagged for that same long-term metabolite of Turinabol.
Jones was ultimately licensed to fight in California at a hearing held on Dec. 11, 2018 but the commission there never received that additional drug testing information from USADA until after they already made their decision.
In the future, Nevada requested that all drug test results be returned to them immediately no matter what the adverse findings might be so that they are accurately informed.
Ultimately, Commissioner Marnell moved to approve Jones’ license for one fight at UFC 235 along with the rigorous drug testing with at least two samples taken each month for the remainder of 2019 to continue studying his results.
The commission voted unanimously to approve the motion and now Jones is cleared to return to action on March 2 for his fight against Smith at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas as the main event for UFC 235.
“I’m super grateful to be back fighting in Nevada,” Jones said after his hearing. “Excited to be fighting March 2. I think it’s going to be a magnificent event and just really looking forward to all the testing, looking forward to getting back in front of all of the fans and just put on great fights.”
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