New Zealand champion Olivia Ray dropped by tag team with ongoing USADA investigation
New Zealand national road champion Olivia Ray has been released by her Human Powered Health team following breaches of the code of conduct, sources close to the team say.
Ray was quietly removed from the list of riders on the Human Powered Health website this week, and she no longer appears on the UCI’s list of registered riders with Human Powered Health. Several requests for comment from the team throughout this week have gone unanswered.
CyclingTips understands that the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has opened an investigation into Ray; USADA declined to comment due to an “ongoing case.” On Friday, Cycling New Zealand had not been informed of any investigation or suspension.
The 23-year-old Auckland native is the current New Zealand women’s road race champion, having claimed victory in stormy conditions last month. Ray has also held several national titles in the criteriums and on the track.
Ray joined the US women’s team Human Powered Health – then known as Rally Cycling – in 2021, and was one of three riders selected for 2022 as the team made a leap to WorldTeam level. According to ProCyclingStats, it was scheduled for the next race starts at Ronde van Vlaanderen and Brabantse Pijl.
Those plans have, of course, now changed.
Ray has been based in the United States since mid-2017, where she studied and raced while on scholarship at a University of Georgia, honing her strength as a criterium rider on America’s vibrant critical scene. Since signing with Rally (now Human Powered Health) at the end of 2020, she has raced with the team twice at UCI level – the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana and the Joe Martin Stage Race, both last year – although she ran several crits throughout 2021. articles for his team’s website, Ray spoke about the virtues of body positivity: “I think we get stuck on an ideal image, the holy grail of a body type. special,” she said.
Ray’s biggest victory to date came at the end of October 2021, when the young New Zealander claimed victory as the winner of Into the Lion’s Den Crit – the most lucrative in the United States – which earned her 15 US$000.
However, the consequences proved more worthwhile than the victory. When Ray questioned the delayed payment of the prize money in early December, a nasty argument broke out in which members of the Los Angeles L39ION event organizing team, Justin Williams, publicly ended his concerns. [Williams has confirmed that prize money has since been paid out.] Ray apologized for her comments on social media, amid speculation she was forced to back down.
Following this event, Ray’s Instagram and Facebook accounts became inactive. Since this week, they have both been closed, as well as his Strava profile. VeloNews reports that she did not attend a January squad training camp in Portugal.
A turbulent period
This Lion’s Den Crit drama seems to have fallen in the middle of a particularly volatile time in Ray’s life.
Court documents for a Jan. 11, 2022, domestic violence hearing in Superior Court in Gwinnett County, Georgia, show Ray was called to testify in support of her boyfriend, Jackson Huntley Nash — also a cyclist, racing for teams on the USA Crits circuit.
Nash was trying to obtain a protective order against one of his former girlfriends, Madeline Pearce – another cyclist, who was close friends with Ray at the time – on the grounds that Pearce was stalking him. [The judge found a “complete lack of evidence with respect to any stalking in nature.”]
Much of the case centered on Pearce’s apparent attempts to help Ray escape an abusive relationship with Nash. [Nash denies any abuse]. On Dec. 9 – during the same week that the Lion’s Den payment controversy was at its peak – Ray contacted a domestic violence hotline, according to court documents.
On December 15, Pearce helped Ray pack up to leave Nash’s house while he was away, and Ray also filed a police report. Two days later, Ray texted her saying, “You saved my life many times. I’m sorry that got you into this.
On December 17, Pearce filed a SafeSport lawsuit against Nash. Ray followed suit a day or two later, alleging he strangled her and left bruises on her legs and hip.
By January, however, Ray had reconciled with Nash and in her testimony against Pearce, Ray recanted, saying she had “coerced” her into pressing charges.
Ray claimed her call to the domestic violence hotline was ‘fake’, that she lied in both her police report and her SafeSport report, and that Nash was ‘the nicest guy I’ve ever had. have ever met”.
[The judge noted, 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.]
Photos taken by Pearce on Dec. 15 were also discovered in the Nash vs. Pearce case, apparently showing the presence of anastrozole, clenbuterol, testosterone and syringes in the bedroom Nash and Ray shared at the time. Nash denied using anastrozole (although he admitted he had a prescription) and said he had “never heard of” clenbuterol; he declined to address the risk of self-incrimination as to whether there were needles in his home. Nash was not sanctioned by USADA.
According to Pearce, after Ray fled her house, Nash called and gave Ray an ultimatum “that she had to get back to him within 15 minutes or he was going to file a report against her”. Nash admitted in court to calling Ray “the biggest shit I’ve ever met” and threatened to “find all the old texts I have from you and then kill me after I get the tip”.
Text messages allegedly between Ray and Nash – screenshots of which were viewed by CyclingTips – appeared to show a discussion about how to avoid detection of performance-enhancing substances. The pair discussed the timing of using Anavar – an anabolic steroid – so that it wouldn’t be detectable in time for a blood test during a training camp in January. The texts also seemed to refer to the substance’s side effects and clenbuterol: “for clen, nervousness becomes easier, sleeping is easier too.”
When Ray forwarded these incriminating messages to Pearce at the time of the breakdown of her relationship with Nash, she annotated the message – “this is what he has”.
Shades of gray
As a professional athlete, Olivia Ray is held to both team standards and the sport’s anti-doping rules. But there are some particularly troubling details about this case that add shades of gray to what is, to sports bodies eyes, black and white.
Based on Ray’s testimony in the court case involving her boyfriend, Nash, she appears to have lied on the stand or lied in reports to SafeSport and police. This case also casts doubt on Ray’s autonomy and raises serious questions about whether she was – or remains – in an abusive and coercive relationship and a victim of domestic violence.
Also troubling are the suggestions in the court case that Human Powered Health knew details about Ray’s situation as early as December last year. Pearce claimed Ray’s manager advised him to file a police report against Nash; Nash claimed that Ray’s team threatened to fire her due to a doping investigation.
Months later, the team quietly removed Ray from its roster and did not respond to requests for comment.
In the wreckage hides the cycling career of a 23-year-old woman. There may be a purpose in this, but questions remain.
Caley Fretz contributed reporting.
– USA: National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1800 799 7233
-NZ: It’s not OK on 0800 456 450
-Australia: White Ribbon Australia on 1800 737 732