Lawyer Howard Jacobs had hoped that the three-person United States Anti Doping Agency (USDAD) arbitration panel would provide his client, UFC fighter Jon Jones, an expedited stemming from allegations that he took a banned substance in violation of the UFC’s Anti-Doping Policy.
They did, but it wasn’t the result that Jacobs or Jones desired. The panel hammed Jones with a one-year suspension retroactive to July 6, 2016, the date that the former UFC champ was informed of the out-of-competition doping violation. In a 29-page ruling, the panel found Jones not a “drug cheat”, but that his “imprudent use of what he [Jones] pungently referred to as a ‘dick pill’ [was] reckless and [will cause him to] lose a year of his career [and] an estimated nine million dollars.”
Jones ingested a Cialis-like sexual enhancement product, contaminated with a banned substance, which was given to him by Eric Blasich, a training partner. An out-of-competition USADA drug test taken by Jones on June 16, 2016 revealed hyrdoxy-clomiphone and traces of letrozole. Both substances carry a maximum suspension of one year.
In previewing the October 31st arbitration hearing, we asked why Jones would take a product without knowing of its contents. Jones proclaimed his innocence and Jacobs stated the product was tested and proven to be contaminated. We now know that Jones asked for the pill and took it without knowledge of its contents, relying solely on the information provided to him by his training partner. Notably, Jones stated that he had checked to see if Cialis was compliant with the rules. He determined, through his agent Malki Kawa, that there was nothing in Cialis on the banned substance list. However, it was not Cialis that Jones borrowed from his training partner.
The one-year suspension serves as a stark warning to UFC athletes to know what goes in their bodies.
The ruling shed light on the product taken by Jones. The brand name of its active agent is Tadalafil, the same as Cialis. The Cialis pill is manufactured by Eli Lilly but the product Jones ingested was purchased from a web site named AllAmericanPepticde.com. The ruling noted that the product from this web site was not subject to the stringent FDA standards of Cialis.
The ruling highlighted inconsistencies in testimony versus sworn declarations taken from Jones and his teammate that provided him the contaminated product. Moreover, when taking out-of-competition tests through the UFC Anti-Doping Program, the athlete must declare any substance they have taken, which Jones failed to do.
Here, the argument that the product was contaminated (i.e., the banned substances were not listed on the label of the product) similarly did not help Jones’ case. The punishment for Jones’ failed test ranged merely a reprimand up to a one-year suspension depending on the degree of fault. The panel found that Jones was reckless in his taking of the product without checking first about its contents:
Looking at the objective facts, first what is most striking is what the Applicant [Jones] did not do rather than what he did do. Mr. Jacobs relied on the fact that the Applicant believed (mistakenly) that he was taking Cialis, a product which he had previously checked with Mr. Kawa [Jones’ agent who testified at the arbitration hearing], was not on the WADA or UFC prohibited list.
The ruling goes further criticizes Jones for taking a pill from “someone whom he hardly knew”:
The source of the Applicant’s mistake was that he made no inquiry whatever of Mr. Blasich as to the provenance of his tablets. He simply took the word of someone whom he hardly knew, and had only met at the training camp, and who definitely had no authority whatsoever to speak to that issue, that they were Cialis.
It also placed blame on Jones and Blasich:
He did not ask Mr. Blasich to purchase the product from a safe environment: he simply asked him for a tablet. In fact, he did not seem to care about where Mr. Blasich got the tablet; but only about what it could do for him in terms of increasing his sexual pleasure. Mr. Blasich himself took no steps to check that the tablet was not, and did not contain, a Prohibited Substance.
The one-year suspension serves as a stark warning to UFC athletes to know what goes in their bodies. As the first-ever arbitration hearing in the UFC, it is a clear message that USADA is serious about upholding the UFC’s anti-doping policy. Jones may not be out of the woods yet. He must also face the Nevada Athletic Commission who could issue a punishment and monetary fine.
USADA’s full ruling: