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11 Jan, 2020 10:57

'USADA has bullied me and forced me into retiring from MMA': Jessica Penne slams UFC's official drug-testing partner

'USADA has bullied me and forced me into retiring from MMA': Jessica Penne slams UFC's official drug-testing partner

UFC star Jessica Penne claims in a lengthy Instagram post that the United States Anti-Doping Agency are hounding her out of her chosen career and effectively forcing the MMA veteran to retire from the sport.

Penne came to the attention of USADA in 2017 after she failed an out-of-competition drug test for the anabolic agent dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and was handed an 18-month suspension, less than the usual two years, after she argued that she'd been prescribed medication by a physician which contained the steroid. 

She describes how she went "broke" during the suspension, taking on a series of odd jobs and how a new run-in with the drug-testing authorities could lead to her being suspended for four years, effectively ending the 36-year-old's career.

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Penne was set to return to the cage in early 2019 but an injury suffered on the day of the fight forced her withdrawal. She was rebooked for a bout in April, due to what she describes as an "extremely low level of stanozolol" in her system. Stanozolol is an anabolic steroid. 

"I am heartbroken and defeated," Penne wrote. "USADA has effectively bullied and forced me into retiring from MMA.

"My heart sank,” Penne said of the second test failure. "After everything I had gone through by complying and staying quiet just to get my shot back, this happened. I had been tested so many times and had even tested clean days before this actual test was given.

View this post on Instagram

To all of my fans and everyone who ever supported me

A post shared by Jessica Penne (@jessicapenne) on

"I knew this had to be a mistake or some form of contamination. What we thought was going to be an easy determination of cause turned out to be an emotional roller coaster and ended in disaster.

"At my age there is no way I can come back in four years,” Penne wrote. “At this point I am lost and defeated."

USADA, meanwhile, no longer comments on the details of drug test unless first done so by a fighter, and released a statement to MMA Fighting following Penne's social media post.

"Given Jessica Penne’s public statement, we can confirm her positive test for stanozolol," USADA officials said. "However, there are many factual inaccuracies and unfounded allegations in her statement, including that she has been forced out of UFC.

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"In fact, she has exercised her right to contest her case before an independent arbitrator, per a request USADA received after she released her public statement. Under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, all athletes have the right to present the facts and circumstances during a full evidentiary hearing. We look forward to the opportunity to present the facts and evidence through this process."

Penne now has the option of pursuing an independent analysis of her case, however she would be responsible for all legal costs, which, she estimates, could be upwards of $30,000 to $40,000.