Through a decision by the Court of Arbitration of Sport, U.S. track cyclist Bobby Lea successfully appealed his 16-month suspension down to six months, allowing him to compete at the Rio Olympics in August, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced Thursday.
A three-member panel of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), based in Lausanne, Switzerland, rendered its decision in the appeal.
While there was no dispute over whether Lea had committed an anti-doping rule violation — Lea admitted to using Percocet, the name-brand drug containing oxycodone, as a sleep aid — the CAS panel shortened the 16-month suspension handed down to him in December by USADA through an American Arbitration Association (AAA) arbitration award finding
The CAS Panel upheld the start date for Lea’s period of ineligibility, confirming that his sanction should commence from September 10, 2015, the date on which he accepted his provisional suspension.
As a consequence of the CAS Panel decision, Lea, a two-time Olympian, will be eligible to compete again on March 10, 2016, meaning he will be eligible to compete at the Rio Games.
The 2016 World Track Championships will be held in London, March 2-6, meaning Lea will not be able to compete, missing the cutoff by just one week.
“As hard as it is to sit on the sidelines while my peers are competing, I recognize that a rule was broken and a price must be paid,” Lea wrote on his website Thursday. “I maintain full responsibility for my actions and I accept the punishment as handed down by the CAS. Looking ahead, I am thankful that the big goal of qualifying for my third U.S. Olympic Team and competing for a medal at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games is still very much in play.”
Lea, 32, provided a urine sample on August 8, 2015, at the Elite Track National Championships competition held in Carson, California. His sample resulted in an Adverse Analytical Finding for noroxycodone, which is a metabolite of oxycodone. Lea won the points race national title at that event.
In December, coinciding with a USADA press release announcing his 16-month suspension, Lea published an open letter explaining that he took the prescription painkiller Percocet without realizing that it was banned in competition. Oxycodone is the active ingredient in Percocet, which is not prohibited out of competition.
The hardest letter I've ever had to write. To those who take the time to read it, thank you. https://t.co/AqGvOvORNE
— Bobby Lea (@B_Lea1) December 18, 2015
“Because it was late at night, and I was trying to sleep, I failed to check my prescribed medication against the prohibited list, an action I have correctly executed hundreds of times over the years,” Lea wrote. “Had I done that I would have seen that Percocet is not banned when used out of competition, but is banned in-competition. Had I done that simple check, the same simple check I’ve done in pharmacies all over the world, I would have reached for another beer or two and I would not find myself here today.”
As a result of the doping violation, Lea has been disqualified from all competitive results achieved on August 8, 2015, at the Elite Track National Championships.
Lea won a bronze medal in the scratch race at the 2015 World Track Championships. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, he failed to finish the points race and was 16th in the Madison. He finished 12th in the omnium at the 2012 London Games.