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Jessica Penne avoids four-year ban, accepts 20-month USADA suspension

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UFC Fight Night: Penne v Taylor Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Jessica Penne’s fighting career isn’t over just yet.

Penne, a former UFC women’s strawweight title challenger, was facing a four-year suspension by United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) after popping for a second violation in early 2019 for “an extremely low level of stanozolol.” After nearly a year of investigation, the former Ultimate Fighter standout broke her silence with an emotionally-charged Instagram post stating that she unknowingly took the banned substance. Despite her cry for help, USADA found “factual inaccuracies and unfounded allegations” in Penne’s comments and confirmed the UFC fighter was looking to bring the case to an independent arbitrator.

Just two months later and both sides have come to an agreement on Penne’s suspension. Instead of the initial four-year ban that would have ended Penne’s professional MMA career the long-time veteran will now be facing just 20 months. This is according to the following statement released by USADA officials:

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.

Penne was hoping that the violation could be traced back to a contaminated supplement via testing from a third-party lab, but USADA ultimately found 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, who last competed in a loss to Danielle Taylor nearly three years ago, will be eligible to return to action this December. The former UFC title challenger hasn’t captured victory inside of the cage since a split-decision win over Randa Markos all the way back in 2014.