UFC Star Cris Cyborg Notified of Potential USADA Drug Test Violation

Best Women's Featherweight fighter in MMA history could have her career stunted before her weight class ever gets off the ground

After struggling to cut down to 140 pounds for her two UFC fights, Justino pushed hard for the UFC to open a Women's Featherweight division so she could compete at a more natural weight. Credit: Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC/Getty

Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino was today notified of a potential doping violation from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which oversees drug testing for all UFC athletes.

The violation stemmed from an out-of-competition sample collected on December 5th. The banned substance found in Justino's system was not revealed when the UFC released its official statement on the matter.

"USADA, the independent administrator of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, will handle the results management and appropriate adjudication of this case. It is important to note that, under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, there is a full fair legal review process that is afforded to all athletes before any sanctions are imposed.

"Consistent with all previous potential anti-doping violations, additional information or UFC statements will be provided at the appropriate time as the process moves forward."

As usual, when a fighter is handed a potential USADA violation, Justino will be entitled to due process before an official punishment is decided. That includes having a B-sample tested as well as the ability to provide any information that could potentially clear her name.

This is not the first time the Brazilian has encountered a drug-testing issue during her career, though. Justino tested positive for the anabolic steroid stanozolol following a December 2011 fight under the now-defunct Strikeforce banner. As a result Justino had her fighting license suspended for one year and was forced to pay a $2,500 fine.

After going unbeaten for more than a decade outside the UFC, Justino made her official Octagon debut earlier this year with a first-round TKO of Leslie Smith at UFC 198 in May. She followed that up with a second-round TKO of Lina Lansberg at UFC Fight Night 95 in September, displaying her skills as arguably the most dominant female fighter ever.

After struggling to cut down to 140 pounds for her two UFC fights, Justino pushed hard for the UFC to open a Women's Featherweight division so she could compete at a more natural weight. The organization finally obliged, but she was not included in the inaugural title fight pitting Holly Holm against Germaine de Randamie at UFC 208 in Brooklyn on February 11th.

Justino said she was unable to cut weight in a safe and healthy manner in time for UFC 208, so the promotion moved forward with another fight. That may have been for the best, because Justino is likely to be tied up attempting to resolve the situation for quite some time.

Although the December 5th test sample was flagged by USADA, it must be noted that Justino had been tested 10 times prior in 2016 alone. None of those samples resulted in an issue.

Depending on how the situation plays out, Justino could face a two-year suspension from competition. Her manager, Ray Elbe, released a statement pleading innocence for his client after the news broke.

“Not for a steroid, and she has a prescription as part of the post fight therapy she's been receiving due to the severe weight cut," Elbe said. "This has been known for a few days, and Cris' doctor has been in direct contact with USADA turning over all the necessary patient files to document the reasons Cris needs the medication."

Justino herself also spoke with MMAFighting.com and said the violation was brought on by legitimate medical treatment she is currently undergoing. She said she's confident her name will eventually be cleared.

"What I can say now is that they are talking to my doctor, and I'm calm," Justino said. "Everybody knows I'm sick, that I'm recovering from the weight cut I had to do for the fight. What is happening is post-weight cut. Everybody knows I'm sick. They are talking to my doctor to solve this the best way. ... It's nothing bad. I'm on medical treatment." She later posted a statement on Facebook, explaining that she was fully cooperating with USADA and apologizing to her fans. "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."

UPDATE: After it was revealed that Justino tested positive for a diuretic that is banned at all times for athletes competing in the UFC, Dana White was interviewed while he was promoting an upcoming fight between Holly Holm and Germaine De Randamie that will crown the new 145-pound champion, and he revealed he'd offered Justino a chance at the featherweight title in the UFC three times, but she had turned them all down.

"I had offered three fights to Cyborg and she turned them all down. Then we just found out, Cyborg tested positive for a banned substance from USADA. USADA handles it, we don't. There will be some back and forth and we’ll see how this thing plays out," White said. "First of all, I was offering these fights at 145 pounds. First fight she had eight weeks to get ready, second fight she had 11 weeks to get ready, and the third fight she just turned down and I thought it was strange that she was turning down all these fights. Not so strange now."

Referencing the time Justino tested positive for steroids in 2011, White added: "This will be the second time [she’s failed a test]. I don’t know. We’ll see how this thing plays out."