CAS reduces Flavia Oliveira suspension; ruling states she unknowingly ingested banned substance

The U.S. Anti-Doping Association has announced the two-year suspension of Brazilian-born and U.S.-licensed rider Flavia Oliveira for a doping violation committed in last year’s edition of the women’s Giro del Trentino.

The International Court of Arbitration for Sport has reduced the two-year suspension of Brazilian-born and U.S.-licensed rider Flavia Oliveira to 18 months.

Oliveira tested positive for oxilofrine, an amphetamine class stimulant, at the 2009 Giro del Trentino Donne as a member of the SC Michela Fanini team. In a decision released Monday, a three-member CAS panel found sufficient mitigating circumstances to warrant a reduction in Olivera’s penalty.

Oliveira had initially received a two-year suspension in a decision handed down in April of this year. The original arbitrator found that while Olivera unknowingly consumed the stimulant, which was found in a dietary supplement known as Hyperdrive 3.0+, her oversight warranted a full two-year suspension.

Represented by Denver attorney Antonio Gallegos, Oliveira appealed the decision to CAS, arguing that the arbitrator had not considered the possibility that she had used an earlier version of the supplement, which did not include mythelsynephrine – the chemical equivalent of oxilofrine – on the product label.

“The panel concludes that Oliveira’s testimony and the other corroborating evidence establishes to its comfortable satisfaction that she did not intend to enhance her sport performance by unknowingly ingesting oxilofrine,” the decision noted.

Oliveira testified that she had sought a legal means to counter the fatigue that accompanied her use of allergy medications containing antihistamines. She told the panel that she had been using Hyperdrive 3.0+ since the previous year and the product she used did not list mythelsynephrine among its ingredients. Later versions of the product did include mythelsynephrine on its label, but follow-up testing showed that both versions contained the stimulant.

While the panel found that Oliveira took “reasonable steps” to investigate the ingredients listed on the label, including a consultation with team staff, her doctor and the World Anti-Doping Agency’s prohibited substances list, it also found that “risks of mislabeling and/or contamination now are generally known or at least foreseeable” and concluded that she bore at least some of the responsibility for the violation.

Nonetheless, the panel found the original two-year suspension to be excessive and reduced Oliveira’s ban to 18 months. However, the panel also shifted the date that Oliveira’s suspension began from June 19th, 2009 – the date of her positive test – to August 30, the date of her last race.

As a result, Oliveira’s period of ineligibility – originally slated to end on June 19, 2011 – will expire on February 28, 2011. Olivera said that while the changes ultimately resulted in a reduction of only four months, she was pleased with the outcome because the panel found that she had not intended to violate the WADA Code.

After what she considers to be a successful appeal, Oliveira said her highest priority is to resume her racing career as quickly as possible.

“I am so excited to get this over with and get back to racing,” Oliveira told VeloNews, quickly adding that she is now also looking for “any UCI women’s teams that need a little climber who is bouncing off the walls . . . !”

According to the Brazilian Cycling Federation, the finding that Olivera did not intentionally violate anti-doping protocols leaves open the possibility that she could try for a spot on that country’s team for the 2012 Olympics in London.