Olivia Ray has been give a two-and-a-half-year ban by USADA ©Getty Images

New Zealand cyclist Olivia Ray has accepted a two-and-a-half-year suspension for using banned substances including human growth hormone (HGH).

The 24-year-old was found guilty of using HGH, clenbuterol and oxandrolone following a United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) investigation.

Information about Ray and fellow cyclist Jackson Nash - her partner at the time - given to USADA in December 2021 led to the probe.

Ray initially faced a four-year period of ineligibility but it was reduced by a year after she admitted breaking the rules and accepted the sanction within 20 days of notification.

A further six-month reduction was then given as she "provided substantial assistance" in the case against American Nash, who has been given a lifetime ban.

Nash provided Ray with the banned substances and was also found to have used and possessed multiple banned substances as well as having tampered with a USADA investigation.

Ray's 30-month period of ineligibility began on March 10 2022, the date her provisional suspension was imposed.

In addition to using HGH, clenbuterol and oxandrolone, Ray was also charged with possession of clenbuterol and oxandrolone.

"This case demonstrates the power of investigations in the fight to protect sport and athletes' rights," said USADA chief executive Travis Tygart.

USADA sanctioned Olivia Ray as part of an investigation which also saw Jackson Nash receive a lifetime ban ©Getty Images
USADA sanctioned Olivia Ray as part of an investigation which also saw Jackson Nash receive a lifetime ban ©Getty Images

"As always, we will thoroughly investigate and act on evidence of doping violations, and greatly appreciate the assistance of those who come forward on behalf of clean sport."

In addition to the suspension, Ray's competitive results on and after May 17 2021 have been disqualified including the forfeiture of any medals, points and prize money.

These include victories in the women's race at New Zealand's National Road Championships in February this year and Into the Lion's Den in October 2021 - dubbed the richest race in North America and which had a winning prize of $15,000 (£13,800/€15,400).

Ray alleges that Nash, pressured her into taking the banned substances.

"I wasn't racing," Ray said in an interview with the New Zealand Herald in November 2021.

"I wasn't going to have anything in me for when I raced.

"I thought in a way it was acceptable because I wasn't affecting the race, I wasn't cheating.

"I was doing it in a safe space on my own to see what it was like.

"That was the thinking that he had created, 'just try it blah blah blah.'"