Former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones has received a 15 month suspension from the United States Anti-Doping Agency. The suspension is pre-dated to begin immediately after he tested positive for Turinabol, meaning Jones is nearing the end of his suspension with “time already served”.
Speculation regarding Jones imminent return reached a head late last week following an Instagram post showing the 31-year old with his manager, Malki Kawa, at the UFC Performance Institute.
Much of that speculation centered on the UFC not yet having a main event for UFC 230, set to take place at Madison Square Garden, New York, on November 5th, with a number of people claiming the promotion have been working toward having Jones make his return to the Octagon at the top of that card.
Speaking following the suspension was announced, UFC President Dana White hinted that we may have to wait until early 2019 to see “Bones” make his UFC return.
“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 said. “The science completely supports that finding. The science doesn’t lie, so I look forward to getting him back early next year.”
Following the announcement, Jones took to social media to thank the fans who have stuck by him and declare himself as being “back on the path to greatness”.
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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
The 15 month suspension is ofcourse a significant reduction compared with the potential four year ban Jones was initially facing. An independent arbitrator heard the case behind closed doors last week and determined that Jones did not intentionally take a prohibited substance.
It was also revealed that while Jones maintained his position that did not knowingly ingest any performance enhancing substances, he did admit to using other drugs, including cocaine “prior to and for a period of time after” July 28, 2017.
USADA went in to the hearing requesting Jones be banned for 18 months rather than the expected four years due to a little used rule in the anti doping policy where an athlete can request a reduced sentence in exchange for providing “substantial assistance” in another anti-doping case.
In his statement, arbitrator Richard McLaren explained the reasoning for reducing USADA’s recommended suspension of 18 months down to just 15 months.
“There was absolutely no intention to use prohibited substances on the part of the athlete,” McLaren wrote in his ruling. “Jon Jones has gone through a great deal of difficulties. He gave me the very distinct impression that he has learned a lot from the loss of the image of himself that he had as a champion MMA fighter. He has been humbled and humiliated by that experience, but he has learned from his misfortune. He needs the opportunity to regain his dignity and self-esteem.”