In a move that’s likely to surprise many in the functional fitness community, the National Pro Grid League’s Phoenix Rise has announced the signing of former CrossFit Games athlete Natalie Newhart for the 2016 GRID season. While Newhart (formerly McLain) has competed in GRID before — notably as a member of the Boston Iron — the Rise’s signing comes just months after she was suspended for two years from CrossFit competition after testing positive for the anabolic agent oxandrolone.

Update: It looks as though the Phoenix Rise have removed the announcement post from their Instagram account.  

While CrossFit and GRID are two separate, independent organizations, the move may come as a shock, especially considering Newhart admitted to making a “poor choice” in the wake of her doping suspension. She posted an apology letter to followers in a since-deleted Instagram post, the text of which is preserved below:

To my friends, family, gym, coaches, sponsors and the CF community … From the bottom of my heart, I apologize to each and every one of you for the poor choice I’ve made. I screwed up and I am sorry.

Never in a million years did I think I’d be one to fall on that path, facing the consequences I am now, including writing this embarrassing apology. Although there’s no excuse or reason to justify what I did, those of you that know me know how hard I’ve worked and, despite my relentless effort, I’ve had one hell of a battle trying to get my strength where it needed to be to achieve my dreams. I tried everything, including different coaches, nutrition programs, moving to sea level, and training at the worlds strongest gym for several months, but nothing worked. I got to a point where I had two choices 1) quit and give up on my dreams or 2) break a rule.

Regardless of why I did it, I regret making that decision and I’ve learned my lesson. I know that there’s nothing I can say or do that will make this all go away but I want you all to know that I’m very sorry and hope that one day you can forgive me. I will continue coaching and training because it’s what I love, and I’ll continue my journey to podium, this time in another sport. Thank you for all your support over the years!

Newhart was a competitor at the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games. Her ban from official CrossFit competition lasts for two years, and she’ll be eligible to compete again after March 18, 2018.

What do you think of the Phoenix Rise’s move? Were they right to sign an athlete currently banned from CrossFit competition for performance enhancers?

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