Jon Jones Spotlights Line Between In-Competition vs. Out-of-Competition Drug Testing

Written by Tom Ngo
January 7th, 2015

UFC Jon Jones

On Tuesday, it was revealed UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones (pictured) flunked December 4th’s random pre-fight drug test for benzoylecgonine, the main metabolite found in cocaine.

Despite the fact the Nevada Athletic Commission, UFC and Jones were notified on December 23 of his positive screening, Jones was still allowed to defend his throne against Daniel Cormier on January 3 at UFC 182. UFC president Dana White had previously predicted the highly-anticipated pay-per-view broadcast would generate approximately 750,000 buys, a modest number compared to what a fight of this magnitude would have done during MMA’s heyday, but White was pleasantly surprised the show “was through the roof. It’s blowing what I said out of the water.”

So, was there a massive cover-up by the NAC and UFC in order to secure a hefty payday?

As much as everyone loves a good conspiracy, no. There wasn’t anything the NAC nor the UFC could have done about Jones’ failed exam, despite knowing the results 11 days prior to showtime.

The NAC follows the guidelines laid out by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) when it comes to drug testing. There’s a distinctive 12-hour line drawn between out-of-competition and in-competition testing for drug of abuse. For a mixed martial artist, any drug test taken 12 hours before a fight constitutes as out-of-competition.

Here’s the ridiculous rub – because Jones was initially randomly tested 30 days prior to UFC 182, then again a week later (which he passed), the cocaine can’t be used against him because it was submitted during an out-of-competition period. Furthermore, cocaine is NOT banned during out-of-competition, only in-competition.

Former UFC welterweight top contender Nick Diaz was suspended by the NAC for 12 months after marijuana metabolites were discovered in his body following UFC 143. Strangely, Jones won’t get fined, banned or have his victory overturned to a no contest.

However, it’s not the UFC nor the NAC’s fault. Marijuana was discovered in Diaz’s system while he was in-competition.

Nobody that’s not on cocaine would argue that marijuana is worse than cocaine. Although, the NAC can only enforce the rules that are already in place. If they would like to tweak the current regulations, now is the perfect time. Actually, January 12 will be the time. 

Ironically, the NAC had previously scheduled to discuss out-of-competition drug testing at that meeting.

Oh, and do you want to hear something else that’s hilarious? Testing for recreational drugs, or drugs of abuse, while out-of-competition is not in accordance with WADA’s drug testing code. Therefore, the NAC shouldn’t have even screened Jones for them to begin with, only for performance-enhancing substances.

So why was Jones tested for it, and why were the results leaked if they are irrelevant?

It’s clear there are many things that need to be changed about the NAC’s drug testing policies. As the governing body for “the fight capital of the world,” it’s time for them to take the lead for the betterment of the sport.

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