Kiwi cycling champ Olivia Ray handed down 2.5 year drug ban

Professional cyclist Olivia Ray has been banned for 2.5 years by the US Anti-Doping Agency. Photo/Supplied

New Zealand cycling national champion Olivia Ray has been banned for two-and-a-half years from the sport by the United States Anti-Doping Agency for the use of “multiple prohibited substances”.

In a decision handed down early this morning, USADA said the 24-year-old Ray had admitted to them that she had used the prohibited substances Human Growth Hormone (hGH), clenbuterol, and oxandrolone.

She also admitted to having clenbuterol and oxandrolone in her possession.

In an exclusive interview with the Herald in July, Ray publicly admitted she had taken the above banned substances while the USADA investigation was still ongoing.

Speaking to the Herald this morning following the long-awaited decision, Ray was accepting and philosophical about the outcome.

“I did what I did, and I can’t change it now. Being honest in the end was what I should have done from day one. No going back, but big life lessons learned.”

Ray has been stripped of any results post-May 17, 2021, meaning she will lose the New Zealand road racing championship she won in February this year.

In a press release today, USADA said they initiated an investigation into Ray after receiving information from a whistleblower in December 2021.

Olivia Ray wins the elite women race during the Road Race at the Elite Road Cycling National Championships at Tom Voyle Park in Cambridge on Sunday February 13, 2022. Photo / Aaron Gillions
Olivia Ray wins the elite women race during the Road Race at the Elite Road Cycling National Championships at Tom Voyle Park in Cambridge on Sunday February 13, 2022. Photo / Aaron Gillions

Information from the whistleblower yielded evidence implicating Ray, who was living and competing in the United States at the time, in anti-doping rule violations.

When confronted with the evidence USADA said Ray fully cooperated, despite pressure for her not to do so, and admitted she was provided prohibited substances by another athlete, Jackson “Huntley” Nash.

“This case demonstrates the power of investigations in the fight to protect sports and athletes’ rights,” said USADA CEO Travis T. Tygart.

“As always, we will thoroughly investigate and act on evidence of doping violations, and greatly appreciate the assistance of those who come forward on behalf of clean sport.”

The former professional rider told the Herald in July she only took performance enhancing drugs in November last year while she was entangled in an allegedly abusive relationship with US amateur cyclist Jackson Huntley Nash.

The pair were both living in Atlanta in the US – where Ray resided since 2017 after receiving a sports scholarship to Savannah College of Art and Design.

Professional cyclist Olivia Ray.  Photo / Dean Purcell
Professional cyclist Olivia Ray. Photo / Dean Purcell

Several performance-enhancing drugs were allegedly photographed at Nash’s home, presented in a US court in January this year. Also present in those photos were the anabolic steroid testosterone and a drug used to mask the negative side effects of steroids – Anastrozole.

On August 11, Nash received his own lifetime ban from cycling by USADA for a litany of offenses including possession and use of prohibited substances, drug tampering and trafficking and the administration of drugs.

The maximum ban Ray could have received from USADA was four years.

USADA also 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.

In addition, Ray’s competitive results on and subsequent to May 17, 2021, the date Nash raised with Ray using hGH and/or other prohibited substances, have been disqualified, including forfeiture of any medals, points and prizes.

Cycling NZ has also released a statement on Ray’s ban this morning, saying they fully support the actions of USADA and the suspension handed down.

“In line with the USADA actions, Cycling New Zealand will investigate any races involving Ray in New Zealand from 17 May 2021,” Cycling NZ said in a statement.

“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.

“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.”