Former UFC strawweight title challenger Jessica Penne is speaking out about her ongoing situation with USADA.
Penne (12-5) is a former Invicta FC atomweight world champion and UFC strawweight title challenger. The 36-year-old entered the UFC in 2014 through season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter.
She last fought in April 2017, losing a decision to Danielle Taylor.
Penne took to social media to explain her side of things.
Her statement reads:
“To all my fans,
I am not sure how to start this or go about addressing this to everyone… I am here broken and defeated. USADA has effectively bullied and forced me into retiring from MMA. About 3 years ago I was advised by my doctor to start an over the counter medication to balance my extremely deficient hormone levels. I followed the rules to the best of my knowledge and even had prescribed medications rejected when I was informed the violated the stipulations of USADA. With USADA being new to me and most everyone in the UFC at the time, my naivety thought that a doctors note/recommendation for a simple “over the counter product” would be safe to take… turns out it wasn’t and I was banned from fighting for 18 months… I was upset because I did not knowingly break the rules but I took ownership, kept my mouth shut and served my sentence. During this time I was repeatedly tested and I was clean on everything. The incident was a wake up call which made me hyper paranoid about everything I put in my body because the stigma of being thought of as a cheater is humiliating and something that goes deep to my core beliefs that I couldn’t be tied to. I went broke during this time and embarrassingly had to do anything to make ends meet… I drove for Lyft, taught probates and anything I could get by. Finally when I had served the sanction, all I wanted to do was get back to fighting. I was booked to fight in February of 2019 when I suffered a sprained ankle warming up the day of the fight… I couldn’t believe this happened, I felt like I was cursed. The UFC was gracious enough to rebook me in April but as you may or may not remember I was pulled from that fight. The reason I was pulled was because of an extremely low level of stanozolol found in my system (picogram levels)… My heart sank… after everything J had gone through by complying and staying quiet just to get my shot back, this happened… I had been tested so many times and had even tested. lean days before this actual test was given… I knew this had to be a mistake or some sort of contamination. What we thought was going to be an easy determination of cause, turned out to be an emotional rollercoaster and ended in disaster.
I spent thousands of dollars I didn’t have testing medications and supplements (most of which were 3rd party certified that the UFC PI gave to me). The lab I tested my supplements at (Korvolabs in California) actually found the banned substance that USADA was trying to pin on me. I was overjoyed with happiness thinking that my name would be cleared and I could return to fighting. However, that was not enough for USADA… and even with those test results AND all their evidence showing that levels found in me were so small that it was clear to everyone that it was not a “performance enhancing dose”, USADA took it upon themselves to find new samples and retest everything at a lab in Utah… Weeks went by and after lots of confusion and arguing, USADA comes back and says their test results negated my test results and they were handing me my second violation, which comes with a 4 year suspension. At my age, there is no way I can come back in 4 years… At this point I am lost and defeated.
Donna Marcolini and Jeff Novitzky who are in charge of athlete health and performance for the UFC, and who handle all the dealings with USADA, have believed in me and my case since day 1. They have supported me and have spent endless hours on my case to prove I did not do anything knowingly and intentionally to cheat. During this 3 year period I’ve been sidelined, USADA has had to reform some of their rules which legally gave me a sliver of hope because under these new rules my “first offense” should be wiped away with the knowledge and proof of the doctors advice and compliance I showed to try and follow the rules. It was very clear I did not knowingly take take a banned substance… there is a paper trail to prove it and I never hid the fact that I took it… as a matter of fact the only reason they caught it is because I wrote it down and informed them of it.
After the so called second offense I was subject to multiple interrogations during at which my emotional state of crying and utter disbelief caused me to come across to Nadia (the USADA agent) as “not pleasant”. She showed zero understanding to my emotional state and I believe she was simply on a reach hunt to show relevance to her job. When she couldn’t pin me for how this “non performance enhancing dose” got in my system, she essentialyl told me I was screwed and they would sanction the full 4 years on me unless I ratted out other fighters or coaches that were using PEDs (Performance Enhancing Drugs)… My mind was blown. At this point I lost all hope and respect for the USADA program. I am all for a clean sport and the idea of USADA, but to threaten and end a non cheaters career because they aren’t good enough to find the real cheaters on their own is mind blowing.
I have fought with everything I have and Donna and Jeff have exhausted every resource they have to prove my innocence… USADA is now acting like the “high Sparrows” in Game Of Thrones and operating in a capacity where they feel untouchable and know 90% of the athletes cant afford to properly defend themselves. AS a final insult to to all of this, Nadia and USADA have requested that I sign a letter agreeing to their career ending terms and sanctions against me. I am here today to tell you that my management team and I did NOT and will not ever agree to sign this sanction they are imposing. I AM INNOCENT! I don’t know where I go from here…At this point USADA has held me from making a career and income for the last 3 years and I am ashamed to say that I am broke, defeated and heart broken. I have been advised by Jeff and Donna that I have one last shot to try and get back and that is to hire a lawyer and fight USADA head on in court but that could cost me upwards of 30-40k. My manager has advised me that he is going to start a go fund me account to see if we can raise the money needed to fight but I am not holding my hopes high. I hope with all my heart that you all believe in me and know I would never cheat… I loved this sport and gave my life to it.