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Jessica Penne accepts 20-month sanction for second USADA violation

Jessica Penne
Jessica Penne
Esther Lin/

After asking for the public’s help to fight a second anti-doping violation, UFC strawweight Jessica Penne has accepted a 20-month suspension from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

In a press release, the UFC’s anti-doping partner said it declined to pursue an enhanced penalty for Penne’s second violation because it found she “was not intending to cheat” in a previous case that led to an 18-month suspension.

Penne, 36, was ruled out of her comeback fight at UFC on ESPN 3 when she failed an out-of-competition drug test conducted on April 8, 2019. According to USADA, she came up positive at “trace levels” for a pair of metabolites of the banned steroid stanozolol.

A third-party drug testing laboratory hired by Penne found the steroid in a “morning after pill” she had taken. But USADA couldn’t link the over-the-counter drug – known as levonorgestrel – to stanozolol, and the agency moved to issued a second anti-doping violation.

In a series of public statements and interviews, Penne and her manager accused USADA of trying to bully her into retirement with the threat of a four-year ban. She later said the agency was more focused on getting her to provide information on other fighters’ cheating than consider the facts of her case. In response, USADA said Penne’s public statement contained “factual inaccuracies and unfounded allegations” and added she had chosen to contest her case through arbitration.

A GoFundMe drive aimed to raise money for legal fees Penne would incur by contesting USADA’s findings. But her manager closed the drive earlier this month as she negotiated a settlement with the anti-doping agency.

In its statement, USADA said the 20-month term is “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.”

Penne received an 18-month suspension in January 2018 when she accepted a reduced term for disclosing her use of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), a banned anabolic agent, after a review of her Athlete Biological Passport led to a failed test. Penne said the DHEA was recommended to her by her personal doctor to treat a variety of health problems she had encountered during training. In an interview with MMA Fighting, she said the statement initially released by USADA did not reflect what had really happened in the case.

After Penne’s second failed test, USADA said a previous sample collected on April 4, 2019, was reanalyzed and subsequently found to contain trace levels for one stanozolol metabolite. Her second suspension is retroactive to April 8, 2019, the date her positive sample was collected, meaning she’ll be eligible to compete on December 9, 2020.

Below is USADA’s full statement:

“USADA announced today that Jessica Penne, of Chula Vista, Calif., accepted a 20-month sanction for her second anti-doping policy violation.

“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.

“During its investigation – and in an effort to determine a relative time period of stanozolol ingestion that caused her positive test – USADA also requested that the laboratory re-analyze Penne’s out-of-competition sample previously reported negative from April 4, 2019. The laboratory was able to conduct targeted analysis on the April 4, 2019 sample and subsequently identified trace levels for one stanozolol metabolite also found in her April 8, 2019 sample. The supplements that Penne submitted for analysis did not test positive for stanozolol. Upon notification of her positive test, Penne obtained a third-party laboratory result showing that a medication was the source of the prohibited substance in her sample. However, through working with the third-party laboratory and the WADA-accredited Sports Medicine Research & Testing Laboratory (SMRTL) in Salt Lake City, 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.

“Penne’s 20-month period of ineligibility began on April 8, 2019, the date her positive sample was collected.

“USADA conducts the year-round, independent anti-doping program for all UFC athletes. USADA is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental agency whose sole mission is to preserve the integrity of competition, inspire true sport, and protect the rights of clean athletes. In an effort to aid UFC athletes, as well as their support team members, in understanding the rules applicable to them, USADA provides comprehensive instruction on the UFC Anti-Doping Program website ( regarding the testing process and prohibited substances, how to obtain permission to use a necessary medication, and the risks and dangers of taking supplements, as well as performance-enhancing and recreational drugs.

“In addition, the agency manages a drug reference hotline, Drug Reference Online (, conducts educational sessions, and proactively distributes a multitude of educational materials, such as the Prohibited List, easy-reference wallet cards, and periodic athlete alerts. Many of the resources available to athletes are provided in multiple languages, including Russian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Korean, and Japanese.

“Along with education and testing, robust anti-doping programs enable investigations stemming from tips and whistleblowers. USADA makes available a number of ways to report the abuse of performance-enhancing drugs in sport in an effort to protect clean athletes and promote clean competition. Any tip can be reported using the USADA Play Clean Tip Center, by email at, by phone at 1 877-Play Clean (1-877-752-9253), or by mail.”

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