JON JONES CLEARED TO FIGHT IN NEVADA
LAS VEGAS, NV (January 30th, 2018) — UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones is cleared to compete in the state of Nevada.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission voted unanimously in favor of granting Jones a one-fight, conditional license on Tuesday, which will keep him eligible to compete even if he tests positive for the specific, banned M3 steroid metabolite at a picogram/Ml level.
The decision was rendered one month after the UFC moved an entire event from Las Vegas to Los Angeles at the last minute, due to concerns over Jones’ license in Nevada.
Jones (23-1) is scheduled to defend his title against Anthony Smith in the main event of UFC 235 on March 2 at T-Mobile Arena. The NSAC licensed Jones for that event on the condition that his level of M3 metabolite stays consistent with where it has been the past 18 months. The NSAC will conduct its own testing of Jones during that time.
“Thank you so much to USADA. … Thank you to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, my team, the UFC, mainly the fans and everyone sticking by me throughout this process, allowing me to say my peace, allowing me to go through this process, eventually proving my innocence,” Jones said in a statement Tuesday. “I’m super grateful to be back fighting in Nevada. I’m excited for March 2. It’s going to be a magnificent event. Just looking forward to all the testing. Looking forward to getting back in front of the fans and putting on great fights.”
Tuesday’s decision is a clear deviation from Nevada’s standard practices, but the commission was open to licensing Jones despite the metabolite issue after listening to more than an hour’s worth of testimony from multiple experts in the drug testing field.
Jones tested positive for a trace amount of M3 steroid metabolite on Dec. 9, which prompted the UFC to move his Dec. 29 title fight against Alexander Gustafsson to California. That test was administered by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
Jones was allowed to compete in California despite the banned metabolite because the state had already suspended him 15 months for its presence in July 2017. Experts testified Jones’ recent test could have been the result of a residual amount of that long-lasting metabolite, and not a re-ingestion of its parent drug, oral turinabol, an anabolic steroid.
Very little is known scientifically about oral turinabol, as it is an illegal substance. According to Dr. Daniel Eichner of a WADA-accredited laboratory in Salt Lake City, it’s possible the M3 metabolite in Jones’ system could stay there for years without re-ingestion of its parent drug.
California already was familiar with those details of Jones’ case in late December, whereas Nevada was not. One twist in those proceedings, however, was that USADA did not alert California of two additional positive tests in August and September 2018 for the metabolite in Jones’ system prior to licensing him last year.
After learning of the Dec. 9 test, Nevada agreed to table Jones’ case until 2019, which essentially allowed him to go to California where he was already licensed. Jones defeated Gustafsson via third-round knockout on Dec. 29.
NSAC chairman Anthony Marnell told Jones that decision, to allow him to withdraw his license application at that time, was a courtesy. Marnell told Jones had the commission “followed the book” and treated the Dec. 9 test results simply as a failed drug test, as it traditionally has done, “your career would be over.”
Jones has denied knowingly taking oral turinabol, but does not have an explanation as to how the metabolite got into his system. He is currently subject to testing by USADA, the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) and any athletic commission he’s licensed with.
“We agree with and support the NAC decision today to license Jon Jones to fight in Nevada and while USADA does not have jurisdiction over the licensing, we appreciate being able to collaborate with the NAC to ensure a fair outcome,” USADA spokesperson Adam Woullard said in a statement. “This decision is the same conclusion we reached based on the facts and science under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy and the California Commission reached under its rules. The NAC conducted a hearing, weighed the facts, listened to the independent experts, and appropriately determined that the trace amounts of M3 found in Jones’ samples were residual and provided no performance-enhancing benefit and respected the principle of double jeopardy.
“Anti-doping cases in all sports are sometimes complex and a fair system must look at each one individually, taking all evidence into account to reach a just conclusion ensuring intentional cheats are punished. We look forward to coordinating efforts with the NAC to ensure our programs complement one another moving forward.”
Jones has served two drug-related suspensions in his career. In addition to the 15-month suspension for the metabolite, Jones served a one-year suspension in 2016, for testing positive for multiple banned substances ahead of a title fight at UFC 200. Jones said that a positive result was caused by a tainted sexual enhancement pill.
KHABIB & CONOR MCGREGOR REACT TO THE NSAC RULING
The suspensions and fines handed down Tuesday for the fighters’ respective roles in a postfight melee at UFC 229 in October were the result of a unanimous vote by the NSAC.
The NSAC voted to suspend Nurmagomedov (27-0) for nine months and fined him $500,000 of a disclosed $2 million purse. The suspension is dated retroactively to Oct. 6, the date of UFC 229, meaning he is eligible to return July 6. Additionally, the NSAC offered to reduce the suspension to as little as six months if Nurmagomedov participates in a local anti-bullying campaign.
McGregor (21-4) received a six-month suspension and was fined $50,000. He will be eligible to return to competition as soon as April 6.
He tweeted Wednesday that he was looking “forward to competing again soon.”
Nurmagomedov’s cousin, Professional Fighters League lightweight Abubakar Nurmagomedov, and teammate Zubaira Tukhugov each received a one-year suspension and $25,000 fine, which Abdelaziz told ESPN that Khabib Nurmagomedov would pay.
Dillon Danis, a McGregor teammate and professional fighter for Bellator MMA, also is facing punishment. His case will be resolved at a later date.
Abdelaziz said Khabib Nurmagomedov would not fight for the UFC until his teammates are able to resume their respective careers, which means he is not interested in fighting until at least Oct. 6, 2019 — when their suspensions expire.
Nurmagomedov, Abdelaziz said, is now targeting a return to action in November at MSG at a yet-to-be-announced event.
The UFC 229 melee occurred immediately after Nurmagomedov submitted McGregor in the fourth round of their lightweight championship fight at T-Mobile Arena. Nurmagomedov, of Dagestan, leaped out of the Octagon and jumped into McGregor’s corner to confront Danis.
McGregor was restrained from jumping out of the Octagon but traded punches with Abubakar Nurmagomedov and Tukhugov, who had entered the cage. The commission and Las Vegas police eventually defused the situation. No serious injuries or arrests were reported.
The Nevada commission launched a formal investigation into the matter after the event, which delayed the sanctioning process. All of the punishments that were voted on Tuesday were negotiated ahead of time between the Nevada attorney general’s office and the respective parties.
“We are grateful to the commission for their serious focus and the decision which will allow fans to see their favorite fighter return to the Octagon,” McGregor’s manager, Audie A. Attar, told ESPN on Tuesday.
Nurmagomedov posted his reaction to the penalties on Twitter.
— khabib nurmagomedov (@TeamKhabib) January 29, 2019
Straight left hand inside the attackers jab.
He attempted to use the big security guard that’s in all the movies as cover, but I could smell him a mile away and landed flush down the pipe.
The final blow of the night UFC 229 in association with McGregor Sports and Entertainment. pic.twitter.com/h4GO46oX3a
I am thankful for the Nevada athletic commissions fair assessment and handling of the brawl incident.
It was not my intention to land the final blow of the night on my opponent’s blood relative. It’s just how it played out.
I look forward to competing again soon.
Thank you all.
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