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Cris Cyborg Justino cleared of potential anti-doping violation by USADA

Brazil's Cristiane Justino celebrates after defeating Sweden's Lina

Brazil's Cristiane Justino celebrates after defeating Sweden's Lina Lansberg during a UFC Fight Night mixed martial arts bout in Brasilia, Brazil, early Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016. Credit: AP / Eraldo Peres

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency cleared featherweight Cristiane Cyborg Justino of a potential policy violation Friday, ending her provisional suspension and allowing her to resume her UFC career.

USADA, which administers the UFC’s doping policy, granted a retroactive therapeutic use exemption to Justino for a diuretic commonly used as a masking agent for steroids. Justino failed a doping test in December, but claimed the result was caused by a prescribed medication for an endocrine disorder.

After interviewing the fighter and her medical team, USADA accepted her explanation and granted retroactive permission to use the substance, which means she won’t be punished further. Her representatives had claimed Justino took the substance to recover from a difficult weight cut.

“The application for a TUE was granted because the athlete had an unequivocally diagnosed chronic medical condition for which the use of Spironolactone is the appropriate standard of care,” USADA announced in a statement.

Justino (17-1) is considered the world’s top 145-pounder and likely the best pound-for-pound female fighter. After Justino flirted with the possibility of a 135-pound fight with former bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey for several years, the UFC created a 145-pound featherweight division last year largely to showcase her.

Justino fought twice in her UFC debut last year, stopping two opponents at a 140-pound catch weight. She was expected to compete in the first 145-pound title fight this winter, but she declined the fight, citing the strain of her previous weight cut to face Lina Landsberg in September.

Instead, Germaine De Randamie beat Holly Holm by decision last weekend to become the UFC’s first 145-pound women’s champion.

“I am extremely happy that USADA took the time to carefully review the detailed TUE application that I submitted, and agreed that my use of the prescription has always been medically justified,” Justino said in a statement posted on her Facebook page. “I look forward to returning to the octagon as soon as possible, and proving that I am the Pound for Pound champion of (women’s MMA). I would also like to thank my fans for their continued support, who made a very difficult time easier for me.”

Justino’s troubles last year resulted in the second doping suspension of her career. She also tested positive for a steroid while fighting in the Strikeforce promotion in late 2011.

Justino would seem to be the next logical challenger for De Randamie’s belt in the thin featherweight division, but De Randamie suggested earlier this week that she will need surgery on her injured hand before she returns to the cage.

The Dutch kickboxer also said she would first prefer to give a rematch to Holm. The former bantamweight champion has appealed the result of her loss to the New York State Athletic Commission, claiming referee Todd Anderson should have taken points from De Randamie for punches thrown after the bell in two rounds.

“I believe if Holly feels that the (lack of) point deductions are the reasons she lost the fight, and she’s looking for a no-contest or a draw, she should simply accept the offer that I put out to her to have a rematch,” De Randamie said. “I believe I was the fair winner. I believe I had the better shots. I believe I was the better fighter, and I dominated the standup. I believe Holly is sad that she lost the fight. ... Holly is entitled to feel and do whatever she wants to do, and I respect that. I feel justice will serve.”

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