Flavia Oliveira, while riding for the trade team SC Michela Fanini, tested positive for oxilofrine following stage 2 of the 2009 UCI Giro del Trentino Donne in Italy. Oxilofrine is a drug in the amphetamine chemical class. The United States Anti-Doping Association (USADA) reported the positive test in April of 2010, after an arbitration hearing, handing down a 2-year ban to the athlete.
Flavia testified to USADA in her arbitration hearing that she had been using a supplement called Hyperdrive 3.0+ and believed the product to be the cause of her positive test because the product contained methylsynephrine, a chemical equivalent of oxilophrine. She told the USADA panel that she had been using Hyperdrive 3.0+ since the previous year and the product she used did not list methylsynephrine among its ingredients. Later versions of the Hyperdrive 3.0+ product did include mythelsynephrine on its label, but follow-up testing showed that both versions contained the stimulant.
Flavia appealed the USADA 2-year ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the international arbitration body set up to settle disputes related to sport. In December of 2010, CAS reduced her penalty from the positive test to 18 months, concluding 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.”
Hyperdrive 3.0+ is advertised as a weight loss supplement and produced by ALR Industries. ALR promotes the product as a “Daytime Energy & Fat Loss Formula.” Flavia testified that she had sought a legal means to counter the fatigue that accompanied her use of allergy medications containing antihistamines.
Flavia is currently in litigation against ALR Industries, claiming damages for the company’s alleged negligence, its breach of an implied warranty, intentional misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation and the sale of a defective product.
Flavia Oliveira – Interview
Flavia, you’re eligible to race as of March of 2011. What team will be you riding for? How did that come about?
At the end of the 2009 season Team Fenixs-Kuota had approached me about the 2010 season, but I had already signed with Gauss-Colnago. We were both professional and left off on good terms. When they heard that I was going to be racing in early 2011, we started discussing the possibility of racing with them. One thing led to another, and now here I am!
Obviously, the failed drug test in 2009 has been a huge factor in your life recently – have you had any revelations or personal highs/lows you’d like to talk about?
Sure, I can speak to that. How many pages would you like to fill?! Seriously though, when I look back, I think about how much sport has helped me cope with hardships in life. For example, when I was a young kid growing up in Rio, Brasil, my 2 younger brothers and I were taken to receive polio shots.
Two of the three shots were contaminated. My youngest brother died from the contaminated shot. My other brother had to have both of his legs amputated. It was a horrible tragedy. However, my surviving brother refused to let the situation defeat him. He became a swimmer. He never let anything get in the way of what he set his mind to. He won several gold and silver medals in the para-olympic category at the Brasilian National Championships.
My brother is my hero. He set the bar high for me, every time I thought I had it bad, he had it worse and somehow through his will and determination he achieved everything he put his mind to.
I think that what I want most is to take this chance that I have been given and turn something bad into something good. I have had so many amazing people step up to help me in my case. I was pretty blown away. There aren’t words to say how grateful I am. Additionally, if I can help educate others from my experience, I would be much fulfilled.
For example, if someone out there reading this ever has the misfortune to find themselves in a similar situation, get advice from someone that you know is on your side. John Ruger is the USOC Athlete Ombudsman and really helped me with my case. I do not recommend contacting USADA. I guarantee they will contact you. My original impression of USADA was one of an advocate for the athlete. However, if you give a positive test, be clear that their job is to prosecute you to the fullest extent that they can. They will not be on your side.
I was very pleased that, in the end, the CAS panel found that I did not intentionally take a banned substance. I am pleased with the reduction. I also feel lucky to have Howard Jacobs and Dan Fleck representing me in the civil suit against the supplement manufacturer. I am typically not a big supporter of litigation, but, in this case, someone needs to hold the supplement company accountable.
The experience was painful, but I learned, I am wiser, more knowledgeable, stronger and more determined that I was before. My goal is to be better than I was, and to continue to learn and grow.
I have lots to be thankful for. The Brasilian National Cycling Team president stood behind me, as did all of those who have guided me into the cycling world. The person who got me into the sport, Max Testa, never gave up on me. My husband (I honestly couldn’t have gone through this without him!) who was with me through it all, helping me navigate in those unknown waters (it is a lot more complicated that one can imagine!) and all the other help I was given through this rough patch, made me feel pretty lucky at the end of the day. I had some good people on my side, and lots to fight for. They didn’t give up on me, so I couldn’t give up the fight either. Especially in woman’s cycling. We certainly don’t do it for the money; we do it for the love of the challenge, pushing our limits, striving to always better ourselves. We do it for the love of the sport.
How did the suspension impact your relationships with your local riding community?
I am so thankful to have such a wonderful community of cyclists where I live, they were so supportive. They gave me space and the benefit of the doubt to clear things up. When I was depressed they literally dragged me out and put me back where I belonged. They helped remind me that I still had the love for my bike and my goals and dreams. Those things can’t be taken away. They literally helped me keep it together, training and riding hard, keeping me occupied in the mean time, keeping me focused.
Though, there were a few people that really surprised me, people that I had ridden with socially for years that I thought were good friends. When the news about my adverse finding came out they threw me under the bus. They didn’t bother even talking to me directly about it. They just passed judgment. I’d like to think that people are better than that.
All in all, I feel closer to those people that stood next to me. Even more so than before. I have a long hard road ahead, a road to redeem myself and all those who stood with me. Most of all I don’t want anyone else to have to go through what I had to go through. There has to be a better way of helping those who don’t have the opportunity to attend USACycling camps or don’t have the $$$ to afford a coach that can help make sense of the cycling world. There is a big gap that needs to be fixed somehow. I would like to get involved with a program like that, once I’m firmly on my feet.
What are your goals for the near future – professional status, world championships, Olympics?
Since the reduction was announced, I was contacted by the Brasilian National Team for whom I will be racing for at the Pan-American Games, as well as a few other races on their calendar. This is a very important period, as most countries are trying to gather as many UCI points as possible so they can send more than one representative to the Olympics.
I was very honored to have been selected as a rider that they are counting on to produce points for Brasil. In order to do that, I need to participate (and get points) in as many UCI races as possible, which would mean returning to Europe. I am very glad to have found a team so late. I couldn’t be more excited. I’m ready to move on and take the anger out on the pedals….time to put the pedal to the metal….I can’t wait! I know it is going to be a tough road, but it is worth it, I want to do right by all who believed in me and stood by me. They deserve it, because if it hadn’t been for them, there wouldn’t be me! SO…. THANK YOU !!!
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