On December 27 2009, Tom Zirbel announced that his A sample from the USA Professional Time Trial Championships tested positive for exogenous DHEA. In April 2010, USADA handed down a 2-year suspension which began on November 17, 2009.
He just announced that a reduction in his sanction which will now end on March 21, 2011. Throughout it all, Zirbel has stated that he never knowingly ingested DHEA.
Earlier today, Zirbel sent out the following email:
I’m happy to announce that USADA has reduced my sanction to end on March 21, 2011. Therefore, I have been allowed to race the rest of the 2011 season and beyond though I do not currently belong to a team.
The reason that USADA has reduced my sanction is because I have helped them in two separate cases against alleged dopers. There is a rule in the WADA Code that allows an anti-doping authority to offer a reduction in sanction in the event of “Substantial Assistance” from a sanctioned athlete. Well, my substantial assistance amounted to me putting USADA in touch with a person who had incriminating knowledge about an athlete who USADA was building a case against. And I actually did this in two separate cases that USADA was or is pursuing. Of course, none of this would have come about without the help of a new program set up by USOC ombudsman John Ruger. The program was just started at the CU-Boulder Law School and allows law students to take on real cases of athletes who are fighting a doping violation but don’t have the money to get professional representation. The program in overseen by a lawyer/professor within the school and I was the first case that they took on. It was their dealings with USADA that allowed the transfer of information to ultimately lead to the reduction. Honestly, it’s a little silly that I’m getting a reduction in sanction for something that has absolutely nothing to do with me, but apparently that’s how this game is played!
This is certainly not the way that I was hoping to get a reduction in sanction and it’s frustrating not to know what caused the positive test in the first place, but I’m still hopeful that question will be answered at some point down the road. And I would like to add that in citing the reasons for my reduction in sanction, USADA acknowledged the possibility that the exogenous steroid derivative found in my body was ingested without my knowledge. That’s actually a huge concession considering their track record, so I feel obligated to point that out. Regardless, I’m excited for the possibilities that this season holds, and I want to thank everyone who has stood behind me in complete support throughout this entire ordeal.
During his sanction, Zirbel stayed active with both riding and trail running. He also started working for for his coach Frank Overton at FasCat Coaching.
I am sure that soon the word Zirbelicious will be said once again in the peloton.