The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency on Friday announced that Cris “Cyborg” Justino has been granted a retroactive Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) and will therefore not face an anti-doping policy violation after testing positive for a prohibited substance in December of 2016.
USADA's announcement serves as a resolution of Cyborg's potential anti-doping violation by the UFC on Dec. 22, 2016.
Cyborg, 31, tested positive for Spironolactone, following an out-of-competition urine test conducted on Dec. 5, 2016. Spironolactone is a prohibited substance in the category of Diuretics and Masking Agents and is prohibited at all times under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, which has adopted the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List.
Upon notice of her positive test, Justino immediately identified a medication prescribed by her physician for the treatment of a common endocrine disorder as the source of the prohibited substance detected in her sample. She also participated in multiple interviews with USADA’s investigative team and consented to USADA interviewing her physician as well.
After a thorough investigation of the circumstances that preceded her positive test, which included a comprehensive review of Justino’s documented medical history, USADA accepted Justino’s explanation that her use of Spironolactone began in late September, following her bout with Lina Länsberg at UFC Fight Night Brasilia, and was in accordance with her physician’s recommendation for the treatment of a legitimate medical condition. Nonetheless, because Spironolactone is prohibited at all times under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, USADA advised Justino that her use of the medication without a valid TUE violated the UFC Anti-Doping Policy. Accordingly, Justino applied for a TUE to authorize her use of the medication, with retroactive effect.
While athletes are educated and encouraged to apply for a TUE in advance of using a prohibited substance or method, the UFC Anti-Doping Policy permits athletes to file for retroactive TUEs where the use of a prohibited substance or method was medically justified.
USADA's finding justifies Cyborg's statement upon finding out about the potential anti-doping violation, in which she stated:
“For my fans who are disappointed in the news, I am sorry.
“You can feel confident that the substance they are inquiring about is not for performance enhancing use, and is needed for my specific treatments. (International Medical Codes CID E 87.6, CID 87.8, CID E 44.0, CID N 83.2, CID 115.9, CID Z73.3 CID E 06.3) Feel confident that I am a clean athlete.
“It is my hope that my experiences will continue to bring awareness to the dangers of extreme weight cutting. I cut weight 3 times in 8 months during 2016 competing twice at 140 pounds. It is because of the measures needed to make the required 140-pound weight limit for Sept. 24 that my body is needing the on-going medical treatment.
“I am glad the UFC has created the 145-pound division and look forward to fighting for the belt once my body is recovered and ready to compete. Additional information or statements will be provided at the appropriate time as the process moves forward.”
In Cyborg's case, USADA indicated that her application for a TUE was granted because she had an unequivocally diagnosed chronic medical condition for which the use of Spironolactone is the appropriate standard of care. Further, it was determined that she and her medical team pursued and exhausted all non-prohibited alternatives and that the low dose of the medication is consistent with best medical practice to treat her condition and would return the athlete to a normal state of health without providing a performance-enhancing benefit.
With the granting of the TUE, Cyborg is now free and clear to return to competition.
The questions now are who will she fight, when will she fight, and where will she fight?
Cyborg currently hold the Invicta FC featherweight championship, while UFC president Dana White has also admitted that he created the 145-pound division for her.
In Cyborg's absence, Germaine de Randamie claimed the inaugural UFC featherweight title by defeating Holly Holm at UFC 208. That bout is under appeal by Holm, and de Randamie has offered an immediate rematch. Invicta has also crowned an interim champion in Megan Anderson, who has indicated she doesn't want to fight Cyborg yet.
So where does Cyborg turn? As she is a UFC fighter, the ball is really in White's court.