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Reduced ban allows Bobby Lea chance to race in Rio

WASHINGTON (AFP) — A Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) panel has reduced Bobby Lea’s doping ban from 16 months to six, restoring the two-time U.S. Olympian’s hopes of competing at the Rio Games.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced Thursday that a three-member CAS panel had upheld the doping violation against Lea first imposed by the American Arbitration Association.

But in considering Lea’s appeal, the CAS panel decided to trim most of the ban’s length while maintaining the start date of September 10, 2015, when he accepted a provisional suspension.

As a result, instead of his ban ending in January 2017, Lea’s period of ineligibility will conclude on March 10, allowing him the chance to qualify for the U.S. squad and compete in Brazil if he is selected for the team.

Lea, who will miss the upcoming world championships but returns with enough time to make the Rio Olympic squad, published a reaction to the ruling on his personal website.

“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,” he said. “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 was a bronze medalist in the scratch race at last year’s world championships. He failed to finish the points race and was 16th in the Madison at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and was 12th in the omnium at the 2012 London Games.

Lea, 32, tested positive in a urine sample last August at the U.S. national championships in Los Angeles for noroxycodone, a metabolite of the banned substance oxycodone. He forfeits his victory in the points race at the U.S. championships as a result of the doping violation.

In an essay last December, Lea said he had used up his usual sleep aid and took a prescription medication, Percocet, without checking the ingredients list against the banned substances list.

Lea apologized for the violation but also announced his plan to appeal his case to CAS “because I want to end my career on the track and not in a lawyer’s conference room.”

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