An arbitrator in Jon Jones’ anti-doping case cleared the former light heavyweight champion of intentionally taking a banned substance prior to a 2017 title fight against Daniel Cormier, clearing the way for his return to the Octagon.
As in his first anti-doping case, which resulted in a one-year penalty, Jones was found to have been negligent and was given a 15-month suspension, retroactive to July 28, 2017, the date of the violation. Jones will be eligible to return to competition on Oct. 28.
UFC president Dana White, however, said Jones will not fight at UFC 230 on Nov. 3 at Madison Square Garden in New York and instead will return sometime in 2019.
“The arbitrator found that Jones never intentionally or knowingly took steroids and the result of the positive test was the result of a contaminated substance,” White told Yahoo Sports via text message. “The science completely supports that finding. The science doesn’t lie so I look forward to getting him back early next year.”
Jones tested positive for the anabolic steroid turinabol in a urine sample during a random anti-doping test given on July 28, 2017, in Anaheim, California, the day before he fought and defeated Cormier at UFC 214. At the time, Jones’ manager Malki Kawa said he had “no clue” how the steroid got into Jones’ system.
The world found out on Wednesday. The case’s arbitrator, Professor Richard H. McLaren of McLaren Global Sport Solutions, wrote in his opinion that he found Jones “to have been a truthful witness who recognizes his past mistakes and has learned from them. … Throughout listening to the testimony, I found the Athlete to have been a very credible person who was well intended and well meaning.”
But McLaren also found that Jones could have done more to avoid the positive test, which is the reason he imposed a 15-month penalty on him.
McLaren noted that Jones could have used only third-party certified dietary supplements which may have further reduced his risk of testing positive.
However, McLaren said Jones had taken measures to comply with the UFC’s anti-doping rules and felt he gained no performance benefit from it.
“It is stipulated that the Athlete took a number of steps following his first [anti-doping policy violation] to minimize the risk of committing a second ADPV,” McLaren wrote. “He hired a nutritionist; consulted with the UFC Director of Athlete Health and Safety on which supplement products he should or should not take; had his representatives review the product labels for dietary supplements he consumed and compare the listed ingredients to substances on the WADA Prohibited List; and had his representatives conduct internet research concerning the supplements he used.”
Kawa said he “was always confident it [the truth] would be seen by USADA, and as their press release shows, Jon was vindicated,” Kawa said.
Jones posted a message on Instagram shortly after the news broke. It read:
“It’s difficult to express myself at this moment but I can definitely say my heart is filled with gratitude and appreciation. I want to thank all of you who have stood by me during the toughest stretch of my life. It has meant the world to me and always will. But now is the time to shift the focus front and center to the road ahead. Greatness is what I’m chasing and the path to reclaiming my throne is now officially open. Comeback Season begins now.”
Cormier lost his title to Jones at UFC 214 via a head-kick knockout, but that was overturned and Cormier was reinstated as champion after news of Jones’ failure became public in August 2017. Cormier then won the heavyweight title at UFC 226 when he knocked out Stipe Miocic in the first round at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Cormier declined to comment when reached by Yahoo Sports.
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