Photo: Rally Pro Cycling

Olivia Ray banned for two and a half years for doping violation

A sad, sordid tale may have found its conclusion.

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New Zealand’s Olivia Ray has been sanctioned by USADA for two and a half years, having admitted to the use of human growth hormone (HGH), clenbuterol and oxandrolone. She also admitted to possession of clenbuterol and oxandrolone, USADA said.  

Ray – who most recently rode for Human Powered Health – was quietly removed from the team roster in March of this year, prompting a flurry of attention. CyclingTips first revealed the deeper context of an investigation had been opened into Ray by USADA, as well as a court case revealing that Ray’s then-boyfriend, Jackson ‘Huntley’ Nash, had been accused of domestic violence by several women, including Ray. 

Nash was handed a lifetime ban by USADA in August. In May, he separately received a three-year ban from USA Cycling for violations of its Safesport policies. The summary of the decision – viewed by CyclingTips – shows that USAC found a “preponderance of evidence” that he had abused two other claimants, including having committed physical abuse, confinement, and withholding of medication. 

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

Ray at the 2022 New Zealand National Championships. Photo: Cycling New Zealand

The context

Ray’s doping violations cannot easily be separated from the context of Ray’s relationship with Nash. 

USADA’s case was initiated in December 2021 after a whistleblower – Madeline Pearce, a former girlfriend of Nash’s – helped Ray escape an allegedly abusive relationship with Nash. By January, however, Ray and Nash had reconciled – in part, Ray claims, because Nash was threatening to reveal her doping and because “she had nowhere else to go.” Nash took Pearce to court alleging that she was stalking him, with Ray testifying in support of her boyfriend, committing perjury in the process.

The judge found no evidence to support Nash’s claim, ordering him to pay Pearce’s legal fees and noting in her closing remarks that she found Ray’s testimony to be “troublesome” – “I don’t believe she made that up. She’s obviously filed a police report and took the necessary steps to protect her safety,” the judge said. 

Ray later left Nash again, returning to New Zealand and cutting off contact by March. In a July interview with the New Zealand Herald, she said that he was still trying to reach her with gifts and flowers sent to her parents’ house in Auckland. 

In that interview, Ray also admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs and said that she had cooperated fully with the USADA investigation. “I don’t think I was ever racing for myself,” Ray said. “I was always racing for someone else, or to prove something maybe.”

Ray at the Lion’s Den Crit, October 2021.

In a statement shared with CyclingTips this morning, Cycling New Zealand said that it “fully supports the actions of USADA regarding the suspension handed down to New Zealand cyclist Olivia Ray. 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.”

Ray’s doping violated USADA, Olympic and UCI rules, with each body operating under the WADA code. She would have been subject to a four-year suspension, but USADA gave her a one-year reduction for her cooperation and immediate admission. They also gave her an additional six-month reduction for her assistance in the case against Nash. 

Ray’s results from May 17, 2021 have been stripped, including the Lion’s Den Crit in October 2021 which saw her embroiled in a furore after late payment of her winnings. Ray was also the reigning New Zealand national champion. CyclingTips understands that Ally Wollaston – who finished second, inheriting the U23 championship in the progress – would inherit the elite title. 

In comments to the New Zealand Herald this morning, Ray seemed relieved that the ordeal was over. “I did what I did, and can’t change it now. Being honest in the end was what I should have done from day one,” she said. “No going back, but big life lessons learned.”

Resources
-USA: National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1800 799 7233
-NZ: It’s Not OK at 0800 456 450
-Australia: 1800RESPECT at 1800 737 732

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