USADA comments on Zirbel sanction reduction, rider explains circumstances behind concession
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

USADA comments on Zirbel sanction reduction, rider explains circumstances behind concession

by Shane Stokes at 5:32 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
Time trial specialist eligible to resume racing immediately

Tom ZirbelThe United States Anti Doping Agency has commented on today's news that Tom Zirbel has had his two year sanction reduced, verifying that the rider can return to racing straight away.

“We can confirm that Tom Zirbel’s suspension has been reduced from two years, to slightly over sixteen months and he is eligible to compete effective March 21, 2011,” USADA told VeloNation today. “Mr. Zirbel has provided substantial assistance to the anti-doping fight and, in accordance with the applicable USADA and WADA rules, his sanction was reduced by approximately eight months.

“It is important that individuals within a sport take ownership and actively stand against doping. We hope to empower all those involved in sport to protect clean competition and to play an active role in ensuring their sport is played by the rules without the use of dangerous performance enhancing drugs.”

Zirbel tested positive for DHEA at the 2009 USPRO TT championships, and was handed a two year ban by USADA in February of this year. The-then Bissell Racing rider maintained that he never knowingly ingested a banned substance, and that the positive test was as a result of contamination.

He announced his retirement from the sport when he was handed the ban, but more recently had hinted that he might return. His suspension had been due to end on November 17th, but he has now been given a green light eight months early.

Zirbel explained how the reduction came about. “[It] turns out I can race this year due to a string of random events that played out starting last October,” he wrote on his website. “Remember when I lamented on this blog a few months back about Di Luca because he got a reduction in sanction for providing details of his doping practices? And then I said something to the effect of "if only I had actually doped or had knowledge of dopers, I too could get a reduction".

“Well, at some point after that rant I met with a person who had incriminating knowledge of a suspected doper and I eventually helped convince that person to approach USADA with that information. USADA found that information so useful that they decided to reduce my sanction because of it.”

Zirbel also explained another important factor, namely a new program introduced at the CU - Boulder Law School by USOC ombudsman John Ruger. He was the first case for the law students there, who undertake to do pro bono work for athletes with little cash who are battling doping violations.

He said that this made a big difference when it came to the reduction of his suspension. “Without their help, I'm sure I would have still tried to convince that person to help USADA but my situation would be unchanged. I'm convinced of this because this is the second time that I've done this for USADA since my sanction began…the first time I simply put them in touch with the person who had the information, with no discussions about how it should benefit me. This time, my CU team helped convince me to 'play the game'.

“I agree that this has absolutely nothing to do with me and I don't really think it merits a reduction in sanction. But I'd like to think that USADA is beginning to realize that I'm not a dirty cheat. I think that they've talked to a lot of people both clean and dirty who all think that mine is a case of unintentional ingestion. I'd like to think that this was their way of getting me a reduction on a technicality. However, I'm probably full of shit. I think that I ultimately just saved them some money and potentially losses and they want to encourage others to do what I've done.”

He concluded by saying that he didn’t consider himself to be courageous, as USADA had suggested. Instead, he said that every clean rider wants those intentionally breaking the rules to be caught so that they have a better chance of competing on a level playing field.

It is not certain where Zirbel will race. He currently doesn’t have a team for this season, but is likely to start discussion soon with squads. He was due to compete with the Garmin Transitions team prior to his positive test; one possibility being suggested is that he might return to Bissell and compete there for the remainder of the season.

Zirbel was second in the 2009 USPRO time trial championships, fourth in the Tour of Missouri and fourth in the world time trial championships. He was subsequently declassified from these results.


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