Jones could face 4-year ban for repeat doping violation

Doctor holding a urine sample that very well could have belonged to Jon JonesThe Jon Jones comeback narrative has come crashing down under all-too-familiar circumstances. Jones tested positive for a banned substance called Turinabol after defeating Daniel Cormier to reclaim the light heavyweight title at UFC 214, and the United States Anti-Doping Agency has announced that a second urine sample from the event confirmed the positive result, turning Jones from a reformed champion into a repeat doping offender.

Jones had previously tested positive for banned substances—which he blamed on taking off-brand Cialis pills—in July 2016, resulting in a one-year suspension. His triumphant return at UFC 214 was supposed to herald the return of one of the sport’s biggest stars: an electrifying talent who was ruthless and unpredictable and, as it seemed, unstoppable by anyone other than himself. But Jones hasn’t been able to get out of his own way, and his latest offense could effectively end his career in mixed martial arts.

The penalty for a repeat doping violation includes a suspension of up to four years, which would mean Jones could return to fighting as a 34-year-old, well past his prime. He would also have to give up his title belt yet again after being stripped of it twice before, and the result of his fight against Cormier would be changed to a no-contest. Jones has the right to appeal the results of the test and nothing is final regarding the ruling or any potential punishment, but he faces an uphill battle to clear his name considering his history.

Another ban for Jones would put the UFC in a very difficult position as it searches for marketable stars among its many weight classes. UFC 215 last weekend lost a marquee fight involving flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, who has held the belt for five years, at the last minute when his opponent Ray Borg withdrew for medical reasons, and next month’s UFC 216 features a fight between Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee for the interim lightweight title because the belt is still held by Conor McGregor. It is unclear whether McGregor will return after his lucrative boxing match against Floyd Mayweather, and with Jones now in anti-doping limbo, the UFC faces a future where its two biggest names may never step into the octagon again.