US track cyclist Bobby Lea got a partial victory in his anti-doping appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and is now eligible to race in the 2016 Olympic Games, according to an announcement today from the US Anti-Doping Agency.
Lea, 32, was a bronze medalist in the 2015 world championships in the scratch race but tested positive on August 8 last year for noroxycodone - the result of an ill-timed dose of a painkiller the night before the USA Cycling track championship.
The CAS decision lowered Lea's suspension from 18 months to six months, starting from September 10, 2015. He will be able to compete again on March 10, four days after the conclusion of the 2016 UCI Track World Championships in London.
As part of the ruling, Lea's results have been disqualified from the August 8 US Elite & Junior Track National Championships. Lea's sample from August 8 “resulted in an Adverse Analytical Finding for noroxycodone, which is a metabolite of oxycodone," according to USADA. Oxycodone is listed as a specified prohibited substance in the class of narcotics on the World Anti‐Doping Agency prohibited list, which has been adopted by the USADA Protocol for Olympic and Paralympic Movement Testing and the rules of the UCI.
The USADA statement does not include any explanation for the CAS decision that shortened Lea's sanction.
USA Cycling had been waiting for the CAS ruling to announce the final spot for the men's team that will compete in London. Had CAS ruled Lea eligible to compete at Worlds, USA Cycling would have been compelled to put him on that team as part of the Ted Stevens Act, which protects all athletes' right to compete.
“If he is deemed eligible by CAS, then he is the automatic nominee for the scratch race by our criteria, and for the points race as a result of Jake Duehring declining his selection, so that's where we're stuck,” Jim Miller, USA Cycling's vice president of athletics, told Cyclingnews earlier this month.
Lea told Cyclingnews at that time that he has been training with his “foot on the gas” in case the CAS ruling opened the door for his participation at the Rio Olympics.
Lea commented on the ruling in statement posted to his website:
"I suppose it’s only appropriate that a saga which began with a sleepless night ended with a sleepless night," Lea wrote. "I woke up at 2:45 a.m. to a voicemail informing me that the CAS panel settled on a 6-month sanction starting September 10th, 2015, the date I accepted the provisional suspension. It means that I miss the upcoming World Championships and ultimately the entire winter season.
"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. 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."