Tom Zirbel has denied knowingly ingesting endogenous steroid Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) after revealing earlier today he has tested positive for the banned substance. Zirbel could face a two-year suspension should his B sample correspond to the positive A sample.
“I didn’t knowingly ingest any DHEA,” Zirbel said. “I’m ignorant about these things, I didn’t know what DHEA was until I was first notified about my A sample positive.”
Zirbel’s A and B samples were both examined at the World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory (SMRTL) at the University of Utah. The samples came from an anti-doping test conducted by the United States Anti Doping Association (USADA) following the US Pro time trial championships on August 29, 2009.
“I found out about the A sample in November,” Zirbel said. “It was the nightmare that every person that does a lot of tests has, that one of them will come back positive. I went through the whole gambit of emotions in the first hour and half.”
Zirbel hired Paul Scott to oversee the opening of the B sample, the results of which he’s still awaiting. Scott formerly worked with the World Anti Doping Agency-accredited lab in UCLA. He founded his own company, Scott Analytics, that offers an elite anti doping program, athlete passport program, event testing, supplements and other customised testing and consultations.
“I accompanied, went to Utah to watch the opening and testing of the B sample,” said Zirbel. “I hired a guy, Paul Scott, to come with me, an expert in the field to make sure everything was done according to protocol and to make sure I had a hand in the matter. The lab was very professional and everything was fine. I have a chemistry back ground so I thought I could check things out as well.”
Zirbel says he witnessed laboratory technicians conduct tests on the B sample three weeks ago. “I thought it would be immediate, but something is taking forever so it is pretty irritating,” he said. “I want this taken care of and not bottled up for too long.”
Zirbel’s current contract with the US-based Bissell Professional Cycling Team expires December 31, 2009. He has completed a three-year term with the squad from 2007-2009 but did not renew his contract for a fourth year. In September he announced that he was offered a contract with Garmin-Transition for 2010, however the US-registered ProTour team recently announced its roster which did not include Zirbel.
Asked if his positive A sample impacted his contract with Garmin-Transition Zirbel said: “Yes. I haven’t gotten any reason as to why but I think it is. I’ve been completely honest with everyone that I thought needed to know. I’ve been keeping them in the loop and I imagine from their point of view, they don’t want anything to tarnish their record. I don’t have a contract with Garmin anymore. They sent me a notice of termination letter last week.”
Zirbel could face a maximum two-year suspension should his B sample return positive. “I feel USADA has been very professional and I feel we are on the same side,” Zirbel said. “They will probably prosecute me to the fullest extent. I’m trying to stay positive but I have prepared myself for the worst.
“I won’t say that it’s out of the realm of possibility that I would walk away from this,” he added. “But I’m pretty irritated about everything. It’s too early to talk about this but if it’s two years I would be pretty bitter. I’m 31 and I have to start thinking about life after cycling anyway. My shelf life isn’t that long even without this. That wouldn’t be my primary focus. I would move on and think about other things.”
The team Zirbel was riding for when the positive sample was taken, Bissell Pro Cycling Team, also made a short statement to Cyclingnews following the revelation. “We are aware that Tom Zirbel has tested positively for elevated levels of DHEA and have been informed of Tom’s decision to dispute the findings of this test. The Bissell Pro Cycling Team acknowledges his plan and awaits the conclusions of the medical professionals overseeing this matter.
“Bissell believes in fair competition in the sport of cycling and is committed to a zero-tolerance policy for its athletes. With the 2009 season now over, Tom is no longer riding for Bissell and the team will make no further comment on this personal matter,” read the statement.