In a shocking turn of events, UFC 200 took a serious blow when headliner Jon Jones was removed from the card on Wednesday night for a drug testing violation. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) handles all the drug testing for the UFC, and found “a potential Anti-Doping Policy violation stemming from an out-of-competition sample collection on June 16, 2016.”
To give everyone a little background on USADA and why they’re working with the UFC, we have to look back to how drug testing used to be handled in mixed martial arts. Like boxing, MMA is regulated by state athletic commissions, and part of their mandate is to test fighters for performance enhancing drugs. Unfortunately, due to a lack of resources and the logistics involved, these commissions were mostly limited to urine tests taken immediately before or after a competitor’s fight.
That’s no good in a world where athletes are using advanced PEDs that can clear the system in a matter of hours. So following several incidents and a call for better testing from the media and fans, the UFC decided to start paying out of pocket for the gold standard of drug testing: USADA.
Under USADA testing, fighters can be randomly tested at any time, and both blood and urine can be collected. USADA releases statistics periodically showing how often fighters are being tested, and many of the top names have been tested over a dozen times since the program came into effect in the summer of 2015. And while the program is extremely strict, it has also shown that it is more willing to work with fighters who have tested positive than athletic commissions.
Following a positive test for Ibutamoren, UFC fighter Yoel Romero had his two year suspension shortened to six months after providing USADA with the tainted supplement that had caused the failed drug test. The supplement did not list Ibutamoren as an ingredient, so the USADA was willing to significantly shorten Romero’s suspension. That’s not the kind of even handed response we’re used to … see the Nick Diaz case in Nevada for an example of typical commission ‘justice.’
So there’s a lot of evidence thus far that USADA testing procedures are being run in a professional manner with administration and adjudication also being held to a high standard. If Jon Jones is truly innocent of this drug violation, USADA is likely to listen. And while that doesn’t turn the clock back and save him from all the fallout (emotional and financial) from this UFC 200 situation, it will at least keep him from being on the sidelines for the two years a drug suspension would last.