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U.S. Cycling Athlete, Verrando-Higgins, Accepts Sanction for Anti-Doping Rule Violation

USADA announced today that Mary Verrando-Higgins, of Ocala, Fla., an athlete in the sport of cycling, has accepted a one-year sanction for an anti-doping rule violation after testing positive for a prohibited substance administered with the support of a licensed physician. Verrando-Higgins was tested in-competition as a result of finishing first in her respective age-group at the 2016 USA Cycling Masters & Para Road Nationals.

Verrando-Higgins, 54, tested positive for the prohibited substance 17α-methyl-5α-androstane-3,17-diol and 17α-methyl-5β-androstane-3,17-diol, metabolites of methyltestosterone, as a result of an in-competition urine sample she provided on May 24, 2016, in Winston-Salem, N.C. This substance is in the class of Anabolic Agents and is prohibited at all times under the USADA Protocol for Olympic and Paralympic Movement Testing (the Protocol), the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) National Anti-Doping Policies (USOC NADP), and the International Cycling Union (UCI) Anti-Doping Rules, all of which have adopted the World Anti-Doping Code (Code) and the World Anti-Doping Agency Prohibited List.

Before competing on May 24th, Verrando-Higgins contacted USADA about a medication she had been prescribed. USADA responded that the product she was using for medical purposes was prohibited and required a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE), which she was unlikely to obtain. Verrando-Higgins applied for a TUE, and after review of the supporting medical evidence by USADA’s independent TUE Committee of endocrinology physician experts, USADA denied her application with detailed rationale, including a reference to the existence of permitted therapeutic alternatives to treat her diagnosed medical condition.

Nevertheless, due to the nature and extent of the medical records provided, USADA accepted Verrando-Higgins’ explanation that she used the substance with a prescription under the care of a licensed physician for therapeutic purposes and without the intent to enhance her athletic performance. And after considering all the relevant circumstances, USADA concluded that a one-year period of ineligibility, rather than the standard two-year period of ineligibility, was the appropriate sanction for Verrando-Higgins’ anti-doping rule violation.

Verrando-Higgins’ period of ineligibility began on May 24, 2016, the date her positive sample was collected. In addition, Verrando-Higgins has been disqualified from all competitive results obtained on and subsequent to May 24, 2016, including forfeiture of any medals, points and prizes.

In an effort to aid athletes, as well as all support team members such as parents and coaches, in understanding the rules applicable to them, USADA provides comprehensive instruction on its website on the testing process and prohibited substances, how to obtain permission to use a necessary medication, and the risks and dangers of taking supplements as well as performance-enhancing and recreational drugs. In addition, the agency manages a drug reference hotline, Drug Reference Online (www.GlobalDRO.com), conducts educational sessions with National Governing Bodies and their athletes, and proactively distributes a multitude of educational materials, such as the Prohibited List, easy-reference wallet cards, periodic newsletters, and protocol and policy reference documentation.

USADA is responsible for the testing and results management process for athletes in the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Movement, and is equally dedicated to preserving the integrity of sport through research initiatives and educational programs.

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