Why a spiked drink claim likely wouldn’t work for Jon Jones’ USADA case


MMAFighting.com’s Luke Thomas raised the interesting possibility of Jon Jones using a tainted drink defense over his positive turinabol test to escape punishment, citing the recent case of curler Aleksandr Krushelnitckii and others as precedent.

When I broke down the potential punishment lengths Jones was facing from USADA, and the potential arguments he could raise, a spiked drink wasn’t included. This wasn’t because of an oversight, but because various factors make it extremely unlikely for that argument to work. I decided to re-examine the possibility in light of some successful and unsuccessful claims of drink spiking in the last few months.

Several athletes have attempted the spiked drink defense in the past. Indian Narsingh Yadav was unsuccessful with his attempt in 2016, in part because of expert evidence that the steroid he failed for would have left a noticeable residue.

Turinabol—the drug Jones tested positive for—isn’t soluble in water and isn’t fully soluble in drinkable alcohol either. While it will partially dissolve in a strong spirit, it would still leave a noticeable residue. There are other steroids which will dissolve well in spirits, such as the infamous “Duchess” cocktail of trenbolone, oxandrolone and methenalone Russian athletes were given, but turinabol generally won’t.

Just last month, Japanese kayaker, Seiji Komatsu, successfully proved his rival, Yasuhiro Suzuki, spiked his drink to cause his test failure. Suzuki had a history of sabotaging opponents and confessed to spiking the drink. This case was resolved quickly, with the initial failure happening in September, and the ban being overturned last month.

Another historic case involved Belgian Judoka, Charline Van Snick, testing positive for cocaine in 2013. Van Snick had both the contaminated bottle and a string of test results proving she wasn’t a habitual cocaine user, which was enough to convince the court of arbitration for sport (CAS) that she was innocent.

A preponderance of evidence has generally been needed to successfully mount the tainted drink defense in the past and it would be the same for Jones. He would almost certainly require either a believable confession from the person who tainted his drink, the tainted drink itself, or some extremely compelling evidence of a conspiracy to sabotage him. Given that the case has dragged on for eight months with no resolution, it seems unlikely Jones’ team have such evidence.

Russia’s Aleksandr Krushelnitckii ultimately decided against appealing against his ban at CAS, though he did indicate that he intended to continue trying to prove his failure as due to a case of sabotage. It’s likely Jon Jones’ team also choose not to pursue this particular line of defense, given the evidence required.

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