Cycling has been a part of my family, and who I am, for my whole life. I can say from the bottom of my heart that I love this sport. I would never intentionally do anything to harm the sport or intentionally jeopardize my own ability to compete.
On the night of August 7th, in a state of post-race exhaustion and having run out of my normal sleep aid, I made the poor choice to take my prescription Percocet hoping it would help me rest. This medication had been prescribed by a doctor to help me manage pain and sleep while traveling for competition, especially in the event of a crash. Because it was late at night, and I was trying to sleep, I failed to check my prescribed medication against the prohibited list, an action I have correctly executed hundreds of times over the years. Had I done that I would have seen that Percocet is not banned when used out of competition, but is banned in-competition. Had I done that simple check, the same simple check I’ve done in pharmacies all over the world, I would have reached for another beer or two and I would not find myself here today.
Nearly 24 hours later, after winning the Points Race at the USA Cycling Elite Track National Championships, I was notified that I had been selected for drug testing and reported to USADA to provide a sample. The sample I provided showed trace amounts of noroxycodone, the metabolite of oxycodone, which is the active ingredient in Percocet. As a result of that finding I was given a 16-month suspension from September 10th, 2015.
As I write those words, 16 months, even though I have spoken them out loud, it’s difficult to wrap my head around what they really mean. It’s even more difficult to accept that meaning. As an elite athlete, I think it’s only natural to spend a lot of time thinking about how best to wind down your career. I think its only natural to want to craft the storybook ending; the ending where you walk off the track after the biggest success of your career. Or maybe you want to return to your roots, to the place where it all began, and say goodbye one last time. I think it’s only natural to want to end it on your own terms.
Now that I’ve lost the ability to write my own ending, I’m left to answer some very hard questions. When I look back at my career, how do I feel about what I’ve done knowing that I may have raced my last race? Can I walk away from the sport today and feel content with what I’ve done? Have I accomplished what I set out to do? Does the ending change the body of work? I like to think that I know the answer to some of these but I think the reality is somewhere between knowing and hoping.
At the end of the day, I made a mistake and that was wrong. I know that as an athlete, I am accountable for everything that I ingest, regardless of the source. I live with my mistake and I accept full responsibility for it. To my family, friends, coach, fans, sponsors, and the sport that I love: I am deeply sorry. I remain committed to the strict rules and ethics that govern track cycling and Olympic Sport and I support any and all anti-doping efforts that help better it. However, because I want to end my career on the track and not in a lawyer’s conference room, I will appeal this sanction to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Thank you for reading.