New Zealand cycling champion Olivia Ray banned for doping

Current national road cycling champion Olivia Ray has been banned for two and a half years for doping.

WARWICK SMITH/Stuff

Current national road cycling champion Olivia Ray has been banned for two and a half years for doping.

Current New Zealand road cycling champion Olivia Ray is set to lose her title after being banned from the sport for two and a half years for doping.

The US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) announced the ban on Friday (NZ time), for her use of Human Growth Hormone (hGH), clenbuterol, and oxandrolone. Because of her sanction, Ray forfeits any medals, points or prizes.

A statement from Cycling New Zealand said the organization fully supports the actions of USADA regarding Ray’s sanction.

Cycling NZ will investigate any races involving Ray from May 17, 2021, the date the USADA says Ray was using banned substances from.

Ray could have her national title stripped. If so, Ally Wollaston is set to be the new national road champion, after finishing second behind Ray in Cambridge in February.

Wollaston was a favorite for the recent Birmingham Commonwealth Games, but pulled out after injuring her wrist at Tour de France Femmes, mere weeks from the start of the Games.

Cycling NZ has not indicated the timeframe for the completion of the investigation into the races involving Ray.

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“While reiterating its strict stance that doping has no place in the sport, Cycling New Zealand will continue to reach out to Ray to provide support during this challenging time for the rider,” the Cycling NZ statement said.

“As the investigation by USADA has been carried out in strict confidentiality, Cycling New Zealand does not have access to any details in the findings.”

Ray did not wish to comment when approached by Stuff on Friday, but in July, she told the NZ Herald she had taken banned substances in November last year, outside of competition. She said she was in an abusive relationship and took performance enhancing drugs not to win races, rather to win the approval of her then-partner.

The 24-year-old Auckland based rider said at the time: “In my head it was, I didn’t hurt anyone and I did it when I wasn’t racing, I wasn’t tested, I’ve never tested positive , I will have it out of my system before I get tested again”.

USADA chief executive Travis T. Tygart said the investigation started in December 2021, following a tip-off from a whistle-blower. He said Ray “fully cooperated” with the investigation, “despite pressure for her not to do so”.

She was supplied with the prohibited substances by fellow athlete Jackson “Huntley” Nash who received a lifetime ban from the sport in August for his involvement in doping.

In its statement, USADA said it granted Ray an additional six-month reduction of her sanction for providing substantial assistance with respect to the case against Nash.

Ray’s 30-month period of ineligibility began on March 10, 2022, the date her provisional suspension was imposed.