Over the last few days, it seems that everybody has a theory, from cutting-edge masking agents to contaminated Gatorade. We try to separate the fact from the fiction in the Jon Jones case.
Jones was a victim of a contaminated drink at weigh-in’s.
(Most likely) Fiction: A theory put forward by Jackson-Winklejohn trainer Mike Winkeljohn is that after his weight cut Jones took a drink from someone that he thought was an electrolyte drink but was tainted.
“IF I HAD TO GUESS, I THINK SOMETHING HE TOOK TO RE-HYDRATE HIMSELF AFTER HIS CUT…”
To understand why this is unlikely we have to understand the testing methodology. There is a standard steroid screen which would test for the substance turinabol. Then there is a dedicated test that looks for a long-term metabolite of turinabol. A metabolite present AFTER the turinabol itself has been excreted from the system. If the substance entered his system on the day of the weigh-in’s, or indeed the days preceding the weigh-in’s, we would expect his sample to be positive for turinabol and not merely the long-term metabolite. All indications from the Jones camp are that it is the long-term metabolite that he has tested positive for, thus almost certainly ruling out ingestion on the day of the weigh-ins.
Jones took a super secret substance that was tainted with turinabol.
(Almost certainly) Fiction: One theory that appears to have started with Brendan Schaub is that Jones was deliberately taking mibolerone (otherwise known as Cheque Drops), a potent, fast-acting steroid popular in the weightlifting community. There are two flaws in this theory. Firstly, mibolerone is detectable by USADA so would show up in any testing. The second is that as in the case above, ingesting contaminated mibolerone on the day of weigh-ins would result in a positive for turinabol itself, not the long-term metabolite. Sure, he could have taken mibolerone in the weeks prior to weigh-in’s, but for a short-acting steroid, this would be largely pointless.
USADA has found multiple supplements contaminated with Turinabol.
Fact (However): USADA maintains a list of supplements they have found that contain either listed or unlisted prohibited substances. While this list is not exhaustive, it only includes supplements they have encountered over the course of investigations, it is a detailed list of supplements to look out for.
On this list are no fewer than seven supplements found to contain the steroid turinabol, however, in each case, there is either a prohibited substance listed on the ingredients or, it should be clear to the consumer that the supplement carries a high risk of containing prohibited substances
Those seven supplements are:
- Alpha 4D by Shredded Labs – lists prohibited substances on the label
- Natural Strength Advanced Anabolic Technology by Xcel Sports Nutrition – unsurprisingly contains numerous “anabolic’s”
- OrlaTest by Chem33 – Advertising states it as containing turinabol
- OstaRX by IronMagLabs – prohibited substances listed on the label
- Storm X Pro Advanced Anabolic Technology by Xcel Sports Nutrition – as with their other product, no surprise that something called “advanced anabolic technology” should contain anabolics.
- Razor’s Edge by Blackstone labs – the product ingredients list prohibited substances. (Blackstone Labs were raided by the FDA in February of 2017)
- Turinabol 10 by UFC Pharma – There really isn’t much you can say.
So while there are indeed seven known supplements containing turinabol, using supplements of a similar description or packaging would be unlikely to result in too much sympathy from an arbitrator. And of course, the presence of those seven supplements on the high-risk list – a list which athletes are made aware of – prevents any athlete from claiming to have taken one of those supplements as a defense.
Baseball chiefs say that more than 40 supplements found at GNC contaminated with Turinabol.
Unsubstantiated: In 2016 when reporting on the ongoing off-field problems faced by major league baseball player Cody Stanley, an unnamed “baseball official” stated
“FORTY-TWO SUPPLEMENTS, INCLUDING SOME THAT ARE AVAILABLE AT GNC, CAN TRIGGER A POSITIVE TEST FOR TURINABOL.”
This despite the fact that Stanley stated he only uses NSF certified supplements. Baseball “officials” have never backed up this number with any sort of details, nor have there been any FDA notices issued against GNC requesting the immediate removal of 42 supplements. By Friday evening in a conversation between Brendan Schaub and Joe Rogan, this number had increased to 47.
Some of the basis of this claim appears to be reports from 2009 centering around an FDA investigation into steroid sales in the US. The investigation found that
26 OF 31 SUPPLEMENTS PURCHASED BY THE FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION AS PART OF THE INVESTIGATION TESTED POSITIVE FOR AT LEAST ONE STEROID.
However, the target of the operation was companies such as the now-defunct bodybuilding.com who were specifically selling steroids and left customers under no illusions as to what they were purchasing.
While there is no doubt that contamination – both intentional and unintentional – of supplements is an issue, there is no evidence that, in 2017, there are forty-two supplements available at a local GNC that have been contaminated with Turinabol.
Scientists question the methodology of the new Turinabol metabolites test.
Fact (but with a caveat): In July 2016 Arthur T Kopylov of the Institute of Biochemical Chemistry, Moscow published a report entitled Novel metabolites of turinabol: WADA moving toward illusions. In it, he raised numerous questions relating the validity of the turinabol metabolites test. In particular, he claims that there was not sufficient peer review or verification done on the test and that no attempt was made to establish if the “M3 metabolite” could have come from a source other than turinabol.
Don Catlin, former director of the UCLA testing laboratory in Los Angeles was more cautious, indicating that while a false positive is a “remote” possibility, it is not considered or proven.
CHASING AN INCONSISTENT ANOMALY COULD PROVE TO BE AN ENDLESS PURSUIT. THERE IS THE THEORY THAT A COMMON GENETIC ANOMALY, OR ANOTHER SUBSTANCE RELATED TO DHCMT THAT IS PRESENT IN THE ENVIRONMENT, COULD PRODUCE THE SAME LONG-TERM DHCMT METABOLITE USED FOR DETECTION IN TRACE AMOUNTS IN SOME ATHLETES—REMOTE POSSIBILITIES THAT HAVE YET TO BE DEMONSTRATED.
Kopylov’s paper has been used as evidence in the hearings of multiple Russian athletes defending themselves against doping charges. The IOC in one hearing was particularly damning.
FINALLY, AND DECISIVELY, THE DISCIPLINARY COMMISSION DOES NOT NEED THE ASSISTANCE OF AN INDEPENDENT EXPERT TO CONCLUDE THAT THE ARGUMENTS PUT FORWARD BY DR KOPYLOV ARE MERITLESS. DR KOPYLOV HAS NOT RAISED ANY ARGUMENTS WHICH COULD, EVEN ON A PRIMA FACIE BASIS, REBUT THE PRESUMPTION OF SCIENTIFIC VALIDITY.
Any attempt to use the findings of Kopylov is almost certainly doomed to failure. With his findings already having been rejected by multiple hearings USADA would almost certainly cite prior precedent.
Jones could have eaten contaminated meat.
Fiction: While clenbuterol use in farming in parts of South America and Asia is a widespread problem, there are no reported incidents of turinabol being used in livestock production anywhere in the world. It is also unlikely that something such as bovine growth hormone could result in a positive test for any prohibited substance.
Jones was using a cutting-edge masking agent in his earlier tests but dehydration at weigh-ins caused the turinabol to be detected.
(Almost certainly) Fiction: If we can suspend our belief and go with the theory that Jones was using a masking agent so sophisticated that USADA was unable to detect it, and so sophisticated that it was able to suppress the detection of a long-term metabolite of turinabol, why would an athlete with access to such sophisticated and cutting-edge drugs be using something as easily detected as turinabol?
Jones is facing a four-year suspension from the sport.
Fact: Many have wondered if because his first positive in 2016 only carried a one-year maximum sentence, would he be subject to the maximum four years this time, or if his suspension is “minimum of two, maximum of four”.
The UFC/USADA Anti-Doping regulations state:
10.7.1 For an Athlete or other Person’s second Anti-Doping Policy Violation, the period of Ineligibility shall be the greater of:
(a) six months;
(b) one-half of the period of Ineligibility imposed for the first Anti-Doping Policy Violation without taking into account any reduction under Article 10.6; or
(c) twice the period of Ineligibility otherwise applicable to the second Anti-Doping Policy Violation treated as if it were a first violation, without taking into account any reduction under Article 10.6.
In this case, option c would apply and Jones is facing twice the normal two-year period of ineligibility, a starting point of 4 years. He could, however, see a reduction in his punishment dependent on “degree of fault”.
This may answer some of the questions surrounding the case, but undoubtedly between now and the resolution of Jones’ case many more questions and theories will arise.