The California State Athletic Commission voted 4-2 to uphold the one-year suspension of Strikeforce champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino (formerly Santos) for steroid use following a Monday appeals hearing in which the Strikeforce 145-pound women’s champion appeared asking for leniency.
Justino’s license to compete in California had been suspended in January after a pre-fight urinalysis came back positive for three Stanzolol metabolites following Santos’ dominant 16-second victory over Hiroko Yamanaka on Dec. 17 in San Diego. Justino, who earned $66,000 for the December win, has already paid a $2,500 fine and the fight’s result was changed to a no decision.
Justino, 26, appeared before the CSAC in Sacramento on Monday, requesting that the commission reduce the suspension to six months.
“I made a mistake and I accept the penalty you have given me,” Brazil native Justino told the commission, reading from a prepared statement. “I do not condone the use of performance-enhancing drugs.”
Robert Bartlett, Justino’s attorney, presented evidence of his client’s rehabilitation since the positive test to the state agency. Bartlett cited an online public service announcement Justino had released in March denouncing steroid use, and said the athlete’s personal physician would test and analyze all supplements for banned substances before she took them moving forward.
In an affidavit Bartlett submitted to the commission prior to the hearing, it stated that Justino, should her suspension be reduced, anticipated taking a bout with Strikeforce 135-pound champion Ronda Rousey in late June or early July. At Monday’s hearing, Bartlett said the proposed bout would likely take place in San Diego.
During questioning, Justino and her attorney stated that she’d taken what she thought was a weight-loss agent that had been provided to her by a conditioning coach, who was named but wasn’t present at the hearing. Bartlett stated that the coach was no longer employed in Justino’s camp. When asked, Bartlett said this was the first time Justino had taken a performance-enhancing drug.
Though Justino had previously provided two negative results for banned substances in CSAC-administered tests prior to bouts, the commission showed little leniency.
John Frierson was the sole commissioner to suggest Justino’s suspension be reduced, but no other commissioner seconded that motion to go to a vote.
Commissioner Eugene Hernandez introduced the motion to uphold Justino’s suspension, which was seconded by Commissioner Dr. VanBuren Ross Lemons. Frierson and Commissioner Linda Forster were opposed.
Justino (12-1, 1 NC) re-signed with Strikeforce for multiple fights last summer after Zuffa LLC, the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s parent company, acquired the rival promotion in March 2011.
Following the hearing, UFC officials confirmed that Justino would be stripped of her title. It is unclear if Justino will also be released from her Strikeforce contract.
Justino, who divorced fellow fighter Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos earlier this year, will be eligible to appear before the CSAC for license reinstatement after December 16, 2012.
– Loretta Hunt