Jon Jones Drug Test: Cocaine, Testosterone Levels, T:E Ratio, and More

Jon Jones in the Octagon
Photo by ESPN

I do not claim any content in this article to be factual. I’ve written this article based on my findings online, but I take no responsibility for the reliability of the information within this article. I’m not a medical professional.
December 4th, 2014
Jones takes a random out-of-competition drug test, which is performed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC). They take not one but two tests because the first test seems ”watery”. Both tests are positive for cocaine metabolites.

Cocaine, however, may not be the most newsworthy detail of Jones’ drug test results. His testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio (commonly referred to as “T:E ratio”) and epitestosterone levels raise some questions as well.

Jones’ T:E ratio is abnormally low in the first test: 0.29:1. An average T:E ratio is 1:1 although averages differ based on, for example, ethnic background. T:E ratio tells us how much testosterone he has in his body compared to the amount of epitestosterone – it doesn’t, however, tell us anything about his actual testosterone levels. The “non-watery” test shows testosterone levels at 1.8 ng/ml and epitestosterone levels at 6.1 ng/ml.

Most reference ranges online are for blood samples while Jones submitted urine samples. I have been unable to find strong sources of information for urine sample reference ranges – the only sources I’ve found are this PDF file and a tweet by BALCO Laboratories founder Victor Conte, which indicate low testosterone levels:

December 18th, 2014
Jones takes another test which later comes back clean of cocaine metabolites. Interestingly, the executive director of the NSAC, Bob Bennett, now claims Jones was never tested for recreational drugs on December 18th, claiming how a test for recreational drugs was never supposed to be a part of an out-of-competition test.

In a picture of the December 18th drug test (published by Kevin Iole on Twitter), it clearly shows that Jones was tested for narcotics.

This time, Jones’ T:E ratio is even lower than in the December 4th test: 0.19:1. It should be noted, though, that urine tests aren’t the most reliable when it comes to testosterone testing (they need blood for more accurate results) so there’s going to be some variation. But curiously, tests show that testosterone and epitestosterone levels have had significant increases relatively.

Two weeks after the first test, the results now show 4.9 ng/ml for testosterone. If the reference ranges mentioned above are correct, testosterone levels are still very low even though they increased by 2.7 times from his previous test – such increase at low testosterone levels, however, sounds more understandable than at higher levels. Tests also show that epitestosterone levels have gone from 6.1 ng/ml to 27 ng/ml which is a 4.4x increase. Suggesting the reference ranges are correct, epitestosterone has stayed within range but relative increase has been significant.

Why are the T:E ratios that low? What causes both the increases in testosterone and epitestosterone levels, and what causes the testosterone level to be so low? I’m not a medical professional, so I don’t know. The anti-doping guidelines set the threshold at 4:1, meaning you’re allowed to have four times as much as testosterone as epitestosterone until they become suspicious. They don’t have a minimum threshold, however, so perhaps there is a sound medical explanation for such low T:E ratios and all the other changes, one that I’m unaware of. Still, hopefully the NSAC looks into taking Carbon Isotope Ratio (CIR) tests on the backup samples. This test should be able to detect synthetic testosterone. CIR tests cost more and are usually performed only when a positive test has been challenged.

December 23rd, 2014. 
The NSAC gets the results of the first test back and, as mentioned, finds the test positive for cocaine metabolites, known as Benzoylecgonine.

Interestingly, Jon Jones, the person being tested, doesn’t find out about the results at this point. He’s only notified two days after the fight, and not by the NSAC who performed the tests, but the UFC.

Technically, Jones violates no rules since it was an out-of-competition test and recreational drugs aren’t prohibited out-of-competition. The definition for in-competition is 12 hours before the fight or after the fight and everything not considered in-competition is considered out-of-competition.

Why did they even test for recreational drugs out-of-competition if they’re legal anyway? Apparently, it was never supposed to happen.  The Executive Director of the NSAC, Bob Bennet – the same person who claimed Jones was never tested for recreational drugs on December 18th – called it “a bit of an anomaly.

January 3rd, 2015.
Fight night. This one would have been a hard to figure out regardless of which sports betting tips you were following since now, even after the fight, it seems like both are physically capable of winning but the one with better tactics was victorious, and tactics will likely be the main factor in the eventual rematch as well. 5Dimes gave Jones-Cormier -205 / +175 odds while Bovada gave them -210 / +170 odds.

Both Jones and Cormier take urine tests before and after the fight.

January 5th/6th, 2015.
The UFC notifies Jones regarding the failed test. Two questions: why does Jon Jones only find out now, and why the UFC is the one delivering the message instead of the NSAC, considering this:

Excerpt from NSAC Memo Regarding Drug Testing

Update: Dana White appeared on UFC Tonight and confirmed they (the UFC) were aware of the drug results before the fight took place.

The results only came out due to a reporter requesting access to them (you can request drug test results from the NSAC based on the Freedom of Information Act).

It’s important to note that the more shows the UFC puts on in Nevada, the better it is for the NSAC. To my understanding, they get compensated based on how well an event performs. If they’re being too strict in any way, the UFC could, in theory, look at other venues for their fights. Furthermore, one of the owners of the UFC, Lorenzo Fertitta, was a commissioner for the NSAC before getting involved with the UFC, and Marc Ratner, the current Vice President of Regulatory Affairs at the UFC, was previously the Executive Director of the NSAC.

The first quarter of the year is an important one for the UFC as their credit rating was downgraded at the end of 2014. They’ve just announced a huge sponsorship deal with Reebok. One could assume that canceling the fight a couple of weeks before it happens – with little time to find a suitable replacement – might be disastrous, considering all the hype and build-up that involved in the fight.

According to his statement, Jones checks into a drug rehab facility after the fight. So far no discipline from the UFC even though Jones seems to have violated their Code of Conduct.

Some reporters have stated the NSAC are unable to punish Jon Jones for a positive out-of-competition recreational drug test. What about NRS 467.157 / Revocation of License which, to my understanding, basically allows them to discipline him for any ”sufficient” reason? Then again, would it be right to discipline him now, considering they knew about the results well before the fight took place and did nothing?

January 7th, 2015.
Jon Jones checks out of rehab just 24 hours or so after entering it.

January 15th, 2015.
According to Bob Bennett, the Executive Director at the NSAC, CIR testing was used on Jones’ test samples from both December 4th and December 18th, and test results came back clean, implying that no synthetic testosterone has been used.

According to this article, Cormier’s T:E ratios were 0.4:1 (December 2nd) and 0.48:1 (December 17th), quite far from the standard 1:1 ratio as well, but still, relatively speaking, clearly higher than Jones’ ratio.

January 17th, 2015.
The UFC has announced a $25,000 fee to Jones for violating their Code of Conduct. Jones pocketed $500,000 for the fight plus the $50,000 bonus for Fight of the Night, making this fee 5% of his fight commission or half of his fight bonus. (Dana White was also recently quoted claiming that Jones has $15 million in the bank.)

Members of MMA media also received proof of Jones’ clean CIR tests. This answered one question (did Jones have synthetic testosterone in his body during the test? No.) but there’s still plenty to wonder about – for example, why did he have such low testosterone levels? Being tired from training can cause your testosterone levels to drop, but by that much?

January 19th, 2015.
Jones is interviewed for the first time since the drug test scandal. In the interview, Jones tells us that him entering rehab was a collective decision made with his business partners. Later, Jones says he isn’t a cocaine addict and not even a frequent user – so why enter rehab at all, then? Was it a mere publicity stunt?

Sadly, the interviewer never pressed Jones to answer more questions about his testosterone levels. In fact, the single question about this subject was about the T:E ratio, and Jones brought up how Daniel Cormier also had a low T:E ratio. That’s true (although they weren’t as low as Jones’) but the real issue is the actual level of testosterone in his system, which was way below average while Cormier’s levels were just about exactly what the average is.

I’m constantly updating this page as the story develops.

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Note: I refuse to accept comments with hate towards UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones. The point of this article is to give you a summary of how the situation has developed and what we know so far. It’s important for the sake of the sport to write about this situation. Hopefully they are further studied (and everything’s OK), mr. Jones does well in rehab and we can see him back in the Octagon in no time.

11 thoughts on “Jon Jones Drug Test: Cocaine, Testosterone Levels, T:E Ratio, and More”

  1. Great job on this story. Loads of bad info going around concerning this topic. I enthusiasticly sit back and watch the Jon Jones brand implode.

    1. I wish Jon Jones nothing but the best, what an amazing talent.

      Hopefully rehab is good for him, and, of course you always hope there’s some sort of a non-cheating explanation for these types of test results. I don’t claim anything or accuse Jon Jones of doing anything but we absolutely need these samples to be further tested. These test results should not be swept under the rug.

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