Maybe it was Andy Foster, the executive director of the California State Athletic Commission, who put it best. During a hearing earlier this month to discuss Jon Jones' 2017 drug test result, Foster offered support for Jones' theory that the turinabol metabolites in his system had gotten there on accident.
"I do not think Mr. Jones is intentionally a doper," Foster said. "I just don't believe it. If he is, he's the worst doper in sports."
Now we're being asked to believe that Jones might just be one of the unluckiest.
According to UFC officials, a drug test conducted by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency earlier this month resulted in an " atypical finding" from Jones' sample. That pesky turinabol? It was in there, but in the low "picogram" levels, according to UFC VP of athlete health and performance Jeff Novitzky, who compared it to a tiny fraction of a single grain of salt, because of course, why stray from that analogy now?
According to UFC President Dana White, the company was convinced that this was not the result of new turinabol use, but trace amounts of the same unintentional ingestion that got Jones in trouble some 17 months ago.
"Jones didn't do anything wrong here," White said. "All the biggest experts, the smartest people in the world that deal with this are saying that he did not cheat, he didn't do anything. So how do we not do this fight?"
Only problem is, the Nevada State Athletic Commission does not share that urgent insistence. With the fight less than a week away, and the Christmas holiday standing in the way, the commission apparently didn't feel that it could conclusively clear Jones to fight in time.
Fortunately for the UFC, California has been dealing with Jones and his metabolites recently, so the commission there was ready to give the go ahead. This is how, less than a week out from one of the biggest pay-per-view events of the year, the UFC picked up the whole show and decided to move it to a different state.
Here we arrive at the point where we must ask ourselves certain questions. Questions like, how can anyone be absolutely positive that the turinabol in Jones' system now came from the exact same (still unknown) incident of ingestion in 2017? (Answer: They can't.)
Also, what if this exact same thing had happened not to the headliner Jones, but to an undercard fighter like, say, Corey Anderson? Would the UFC have moved the entire event for him? (Answer: LOL, no.)
And what about those fans who not only bought tickets to UFC 232 in Las Vegas, but booked flights and hotels just to travel to the city where there's no longer a fight on Saturday night? Sure, maybe some of them have the ability to head to Los Angeles and catch the event there, but a lot of them probably can't. What do you tell them? (Answer: Sorry, I guess?)
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, what are we supposed to think of both Jones and the UFC now?
Jones finds himself in the familiar position of having to insist that he did nothing wrong (again), that he is instead a victim of this and not a perpetrator. What terrible luck, right? Not only did you not do the steroids (at least not on purpose) the first time, but now they keep showing up again, and somehow only at the most inopportune times.
This essentially asks fans to choose their own interpretation: Is Jones a cheater who's being enabled by the powers that be in his sport, or is he uniquely unfortunate when it comes to drug tests? Based on all the available evidence, it has to be one or the other. And how you feel about Jones and his many missteps is bound to color your conclusions here.
Now Jones also has to go into his first fight back from suspension with this added cloud hanging over him. Even if he dominates the fight and wins the title, how is it supposed to feel like any sort of vindication? How are his rivals and competitors supposed to look at him as just another guy who excelled on an even playing field, and not the beneficiary of special treatment that apparently stretches across state lines?
For the UFC, of course, the motive is money. Jones is the whole show here, and everybody knows it. If he doesn't fight on Saturday, pay-per-view numbers take a nosedive. Scrambling to rebook the event and move the entire operation to a neighboring state seems like the direct result of a show-must-go-on mentality that places revenue above all other concerns.
It's a lot to think about, especially if you're one of those fans with plane tickets and hotel reservations. Now you have to ask yourself if it's worth it to follow this traveling carnival just a little bit farther, or else cut your losses and call it good.
For more on UFC 232, check out the UFC Rumors section of MMA Junkie.
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