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Former UFC title challenger Jessica Penne suspended 20-months for second USADA violation

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It looks like Penne’s career isn’t quite as dead in the water as it looked back in January, when the fighter announced that she was facing a 4-year ban from the UFC’s drug testing agency.

UFC Fight Night: Weigh-ins Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Back in 2017, Jessica Penne’s once-notable MMA career stopped dead. The former UFC title challenger – and former Invicta atomweight champion – failed a drug test, and was handed an 18-month suspension from competition.

In February of 2019, she looked set for her MMA return, against Jodie Esquibel. But an injury on the day of the fight scrapped her bout. Two months later she failed a second drug test. And, after almost a year of investigation, Penne announced that she was now facing a 4-year suspension, one that would effectively end the 37-year-old’s time as a professional fighter.

Despite that claim, USADA released their own statement shortly afterward—saying that Penne had claimed her right to arbitration and, essentially, that no final decision on her potential suspension had been made. Now, however it appears the final verdict has been rendered. The drug testing agency announced on Friday, February 28th – via a press release on their website – that Penne had accepted a 20-month suspension for her second drug test failure.

Penne, 36, tested positive at trace levels for two metabolites of stanozolol, 16β-hydroxystanozolol and 3′-hydroxystanozolol, as the result of an out-of-competition urine sample she provided on April 8, 2019. Stanozolol is a non-Specified Substance in the class of Anabolic Agents and prohibited at all times under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy and UFC Prohibited List.

USADA determined that a reduction to the otherwise applicable period of ineligibility was appropriate in this case due to the totality of circumstances, including the complexity of issues, as well as Penne’s participation in discussions with USADA following her initial public comments in January. Furthermore, under the current UFC Anti-Doping Policy, USADA did not pursue an enhanced sanction for a second violation because USADA determined that Penne was not intending to cheat when she committed her first violation, as her use of the prohibited anabolic agent dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in a dietary supplement was based upon the recommendation of her physician related to a medical issue.

The statement added that, despite Penne’s claims that she was able to trace the source of her postitive Sanozolol test to a tainted supplement via a third-party testing agency, “USADA determined that the initial results from the third-party lab did not adequately establish a source of the positive test due to the lab’s testing protocol.” Thus she is still on the hook for 20-months rather than any further reduction in punishment.

From her April 8th, 2019 suspension date, Penne will be eligible to return in early December of this year. That will still make it more than three-and-a-half years since her last fight in the Octagon. But, it’s a far cry from the four year suspension she might have been facing.