Jessica Penne's case with USADA has reached a conclusion -- with a better outcome than she previously believed.
USADA, the UFC's anti-doping partner, announced Friday that Penne has accepted a 20-month suspension due to a positive drug test for the banned steroid stanozolol. The ban is retroactive to April 8, 2019, so Penne will be eligible to compete again in December 2020.
In an emotional social media post in January, Penne expressed concern that USADA might suspend her for four years because this was her second UFC anti-doping policy violation. Penne has adamantly denied knowingly using any kind of banned drug in both cases and said USADA "bullied" her. Had the ban been four years, the 37-year-old Penne said it would have effectively retired her. She added that she "went broke," spending thousands of dollars to get medications and supplements tested to clear her name.
Penne's manager, Brian Butler of SuckerPunch Entertainment, told ESPN that Penne does not plan on retiring and would like to fight in December when her suspension is up.
USADA said in the release Friday that it reduced Penne's potential suspension "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."
The agency didn't seek a four-year, enhanced sanction for Penne, despite her being seen as a repeat offender, because USADA determined she was not intending to cheat in her first case in 2017. In that instance, Penne tested positive for the banned substance dehydroepiandrosterone. But USADA found that she ingested the drug from a dietary supplement based on the recommendation of her doctor due to a medical issue. Penne was still suspended 18 months in 2018 for the violation.
In the second case, Penne was able to obtain third-party lab results showing that a medication was the source of the stanzolol metabolites found in her drug-test results. But USADA and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)-accredited Sports Medicine Research & Testing Laboratory (SMRTL) deemed that those results "did not adequately establish a source of the positive test due to the lab's testing protocol."
Penne (12-5) is a former UFC women's strawweight title challenger who fell to Joanna Jedrzejczyk in 2015. The California native has lost three straight but has only fought twice since that title loss due to injuries and these issues with USADA. Penne is a former Invicta FC women's atomweight champion.