Cortney Casey is still holding out hope that the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) lifts sanctions from a controversial doping case that started last month. But she knows damage — to her character and career reputation — have already been done, and those are going to be more difficult to wipe away.
“You know how it is in the media,” Casey told MMA Fighting. “One to two days and it's forgot about. I’m already a cheater. I’ve already, in their eyes, tested positive for steroids. I didn’t test positive for anything.”
Last month, the TDLR suspended Casey for three months and overturned her win over Jessica Aguilar from UFC 211 on May 13 in Dallas after Casey, in the eyes of the state at the time, failed a drug test. Casey’s results came back with a testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio of 5-to-1, higher than the 4-to-1 threshold in Texas. The TDLR considered that a positive drug test, and issued sanctions.
However, according to UFC vice president Jeff Novitzky and doping experts, simply having a higher testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio does not mean an athlete is using banned substances. A high T:E ratio is a red flag, but it doesn’t mean a failure. It requires further testing, preferably of the isotope-ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) variety, to determine whether the high ratio came from exogenous testosterone.
Last week, the UFC got back the results of Casey’s ‘B’ sample from the WADA-accredited SMRTL lab in Salt Lake City. IRMS testing was conducted and it concluded that Casey did not have any prohibited substances in her system. The UFC and its anti-doping partner USADA consider this to be a false positive and maintain that Casey is clean. Casey, of course, has been saying that all along.
“I knew what the test was gonna show," she said Monday on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani. “I knew it was gonna come back clean. I’ve always been a clean fighter.”
Novitzky said that USADA has gotten back Casey's results with an elevated T:E ratio in the past, but she has always been cleared after IRMS or carbon-isotope ratio (CIR) testing. Casey isn't sure why her ratio is high, but speculated it could be from the birth control she has been taking for 10 years.
Casey, 30, said she has not yet personally heard back from the TDLR about the latest development and her sanctions still remain. TDLR spokesperson Susan Stanford told MMA Fighting on Monday that Casey’s case is still under review.
“I’ve been exonerated by the UFC, which is great,” Casey said. “I’ve been exonerated by USADA, which is awesome. But at the end of the day, the people that need to be making an apology haven’t, the ones that made the statement.”
Novitzky told MMA Fighting last week that he believes the TDLR jumped the gun and committed a mortal sin in the world of anti-doping.
“I believe it’s sickening how Cortney has been treated by the Texas commission throughout this,” Novitzky said. “From my experience, the worst thing you can do in anti-doping is a public announcement of a false positive test and that’s what Texas did to her.”
All of this stings even more, because Casey (6-4, 1 NC) had the best performance of her career against Aguilar in a dominant unanimous decision win. Aguilar was once considered the best strawweight fighter in the world.
“This was my breakthrough performance in the eyes of most people,” Casey said. “She was a highly ranked fighter and this is a huge positive in my career and it’s just been tarnished by someone's stupidity on the situation. And just a lack of professionalism at the end of the day with how things were handled.”
Casey said she didn't find out about the initial test results until she heard it through her manager Tiago Okamura, who was asked about it by a journalist.
The Hawaii resident is confident the TDLR will do what she believes is the right thing, especially because the UFC and USADA are behind her. Casey even got a reassuring call from UFC president Dana White.
But this is still something that has had a negative impact on her life. Casey’s daughter was asked about her “taking steroids” by a friend and she was approached and criticized while shopping in Target, Casey said. People have even contacted her parents about it, she added.
“Even now with the result in my favor, people will just say I found a loophole," Casey said. “I will always be considered a cheater in some people’s eyes. If you look at the science, there is no loophole to it. It sucks. It just sucks.”