UFC strawweight Jessica Penne says she is fearful her career might be over due to ongoing issues with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
In a lengthy statement released on her social media on Friday, Penne, 36, says she is "heart-broken and defeated," and facing a potential four-year suspension for a failed drug test administered in 2019. The California-based fighter said she is innocent in the matter and never attempted to cheat.
"USADA has effectively bullied and forced me into retiring from MMA," Penne wrote. "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."
Penne has already served one 18-month suspension, for testing positive for a steroid in 2017. She claims she was prescribed the substance by a physician to address her "extremely deficient hormone levels" and did not realize it was banned.
She was scheduled to return to competition in February 2019, but withdrew from a bout against Jodie Esquibel at the last minute due to an ankle injury. Penne was then rebooked to fight in April, but was pulled after she tested positive for another steroid, stanozolol.
Penne said she spent thousands of dollars to trace the positive stanozolol test to a contaminated supplement -- contaminated supplements having proved to be a serious problem in the implementation of the UFC's anti-doping policy -- but the evidence was "not enough for USADA" to drop the case.
"Even with those test results AND all their evidence showing that the levels [of stanozolol] 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," Penne wrote.
"Weeks went by and after lots of confusion and arguing, USADA comes back and says their test results negated my tests 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 four years."
USADA released its own statement on Friday, confirming Penne had tested positive for stanozolol while disputing other parts of her account.
"Given Jessica Penne's public statement, we can confirm her positive test for stanozolol," USADA stated. "However, there are many factual inaccuracies and unfounded allegations in her statement, including that she has been forced out of the UFC. In fact, she has exercised her right to contest her case before an independent arbitrator."
All UFC athletes have the right, under the UFC's anti-doping policy, to take a case to an independent arbitrator. In her statement, Penne alluded to this possibility and even mentioned her manager had advised her to set up a GoFundMe account to cover the costs.
Penne challenged then-strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the 115-pound title in 2015, losing via third-round TKO. She has not fought since April 2017. Prior to joining the UFC in 2014, she held the 105-pound atomweight championship in the all-female promotion Invicta FC.