In an article I wrote yesterday, I detailed the timeline of how Texas mishandled Cortney Casey’s drug testing. What it didn’t really go into was the human cost of those mistakes. This story isn’t important just because of the incompetence on display by a commission in announcing what amounts to a false positive, it’s important because of the real, tangible issues it caused a completely innocent athlete.
I spoke with Cortney about what happened after the Texas commission convicted her of something she didn’t do. Here’s what she has been through, in her own words:
“One of the worst things that can happen to an athlete is being associated with steroids in any way, shape or form. I don’t want to have that asterisk next to my name. I’m innocent, but that’ll still be there; some people aren’t going to read the second article, some people aren’t going to understand it, or they’re going to think I just found a loophole. I can’t change the way they think because they heard I used steroids, so I’ll always be attached to that and it sucks.
I was approached at Target, and I was told that I had let the island down, that I was a cheater, and asked how I could do that to my fans. I live on a small island and word travels fast; they don’t call it Coconut Wireless for nothing.
It’s one thing for people to attack me on social media, but then they went and found my mom on social media. When I posted pictures of the kids I train, people were saying things like, ‘Don’t take steroids like your coach.’”
Something that often gets overlooked is that Casey lives on one of the Hawaiian islands. While she may not be as famous as Ronda Rousey or Conor McGregor, you can bet that on her island, people know who she is. Hundreds of people showed up to welcome Max Holloway and Yancy Medeiros back to Hawaii after their respective UFC 212 victories, and fighters are celebrities in their communities on any of the Hawaiian islands. Now people in her community think she’s a cheat because of Texas’ mistake.
After the initial result was reported, Casey didn’t discuss the situation publicly for several weeks and some people seemed to think that was suspicious in and of itself. In reality, that happened because there was a very real concern that the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) was petty enough to retaliate if she did.
“Everyone told me not to say anything, to make sure my family didn’t say anything because I should avoid pissing Texas off, especially when Jeff reached out on my behalf and told them that this was basically a false positive and they shouldn’t be releasing it and they still did nothing. Jeff told me after that to just say silent so we don’t piss them off. Dana said the same thing, he told me just to listen to Jeff because he knows what he’s doing and they hired him for a reason.
I’ve been following that advice, but it has been hard. I’ve been attacked on social media, I’ve been verbally assaulted by people at Target, it’s just been hard. I’m glad it’s coming out that I was innocent to all along. It has been the longest month of my life, waiting for the result of a test I already knew the answer to.”
One of the few positives in this whole situation is how much support Casey received from the UFC. I can personally attest to the fact that Jeff Novitzky was invested in this situation. In fact, it would be fair to call him livid over the TDLR’s behaviour, and his repeated communications with them over the issue demonstrates that. Dana White also reached out to Casey to let her know the UFC had her back, and even USADA contacted the TDLR on Casey’s behalf.
“Jeff has been so helpful. The first time you meet him, he’s this real tall guy; he’s so sweet and he carries himself like a businessman. He’s not one of the fighters or one of the coordinators, but he still fits in. He just carries himself very well.
No matter how many times I see Jeff, he gives me his card every single time, ‘Here’s my card, here’s my number, call me, my phone is on me all of the time and I will get back to you,’ and that has been the case. If you send him a text, he replies. If you call him, he answers. If he doesn’t answer, he calls you back within an hour.
Jeff even contacted USADA on my behalf to get them to send my athlete biological passport information to Texas. He’s also familiar with the labs and made sure my sample got retested at the WADA-accredited lab in Salt Lake City.
Dana [White] reached out to me right away, the same day everything came out, and he called me and told me to hang in there and the UFC would take the proper steps to make sure the situation was handled properly and that they would pay for everything up front. That was reassuring. When you hear things from Dana, when he tells you that we’re behind you, then you know you have the UFC’s support. Sean Shelby reached out and told me to hang in there, and told me we’d get through this, as well.
I’ve been happy with how the UFC handled this and with how USADA handled it, the only part that hasn’t been going smoothly is the contact with--and professionalism of--Texas.”
Texas is one of the largest states in the country, and it has been host to some of the largest boxing and MMA bouts in the world for decades. Despite that, the commission not only has outdated drug testing policies, but it’s run by people who outright refuse to listen to expert advice and will happily sit back and do nothing while an athlete’s reputation, and potentially their career, is ruined because of their mistake.
The officiating and regulation of combat sports in Texas has been a joke for a long time in the MMA community, but now that athletes are suffering permanent damage to their reputations, the joke isn’t funny anymore, and the TDLR need to start taking their responsibilities seriously.