By Nick Butler

Mike Shea has been awarded USOC Athlete of the Month in an accolade for Paralympic sport ©Getty ImagesFebruary 9 - Para-snowboarder Mike Shea has been named athlete of the month by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).

In what can be taken as recognition of the growth of Paralympic sport in the US, Shea beat off competition from two high-profile non-Paralympic figures, halfpipe snowboard superstar Shaun White and distance runner Galen Rupp.

Shea, ranked world number one, secured the first of three World Cup wins in January with men's lower-limb impairment snowboard cross victory in Copper Mountain, Colorado.

He followed this performance with consecutive titles in the same event at the 2014 Big White World Cup, held in Kelowna, and has also been nominated for International Paralympic Committee (IPC) athlete of the month. 

Earlier in February, Shea received a further boost after he was nominated to the US Paralympic team ahead of snowboard cross making its debut as part of the alpine skiing programme at the Games in Sochi in March. 

All of this success comes after he served a one month suspension for an anti-doping rule violation committed last year - after he returned an "adverse analytical finding for Buprenorphine." 

Despite receiving a ban it was deemed that he had not used the substance either to enhance his performance or to mask the use of a performance-enhancing chemical.

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