Tom Danielson has suggested that his 2015 positive test for an "an anabolic agent" could have been caused by the contamination of a supplement he had taken for a number of years.
"Mr. Danielson will remain provisionally suspended, and the hearing originally scheduled for June will move to a yet-to-be-determined date in the fall," the USADA said in a statement announcing the decision on Tuesday.
Danielson claimed in a statement published via social media that “there are still some questions that need to be answered."
Danielson's racing career has been in limbo since he abandoned the 2015 Tour of Utah before the race started in August, announcing on Twitter that USADA had informed him that a sample taken during an out-of-competition test on July 9, 2015, returned a positive result for anabolic agent found through Carbon Isotope Ratio testing.
Danielson has maintained that he did not knowingly ingest any banned substances. However Cannondale chose not to renew his contract for this season. Danielson has revealed little about his case since then but broke his silence, suggesting his case was sparked by the presence of DHEA in a supplement.
"Expert analysis of my Carbon Isotope Ratio test shows that my positive test is consistent with ingestion of DHEA, consistent with supplement contamination, and is classified as 'unintentional ingestion' (an amount so small it would be nearly impossible to intentionally ingest and clearly would have no benefit as well)," Danielson's statement reads.
"The expert analysis of my test result also shows that small amount of this banned substance in my system was early in the metabolism process. The sample I gave on July 9th was at 7pm, shortly after I finished dinner and had taken my dietary supplement (as I took with meals for better absorption and digestion). This timing is consistent with the test result findings."
"After thoroughly investigating all possible avenues and countless tests, we have identified the likely cause of my positive test as a dietary supplement I have taken for many years without issue. I take full responsibility for ingesting this supplement as the WADA rules are very clear — every athlete is responsible for what goes in his or her body. I prefer to keep the supplement name and manufacturer private during this time."
Danielson does not name the producer of the alleged supplement or say who advised him to take it. However he raises two questions and seems to hope the answers will help reduce or eliminate any ban.
In the early years of the WADA code, athletes were given little leeway for ingesting prohibited substances unintentionally. Many served two-year bans for testing positive for the same substance for which athletes are now only given warnings. Even Alberto Contador's clenbuterol positive from the 2010 Tour de France resulted in a harsh punishment compared with his teammate Michael Rogers' similar test result three years later.
However, even if Danielson could prove he took a contaminated supplement ("No Significant Fault or Negligence" in anti-doping rule terms), he is still subject to article 10.7 - "Multiple Violations" - because of his previous doping confession. In 2012, Danielson admitted to doping during USADA's investigation of Lance Armstrong and the US Postal Service Team. He confessed to taking EPO, blood transfusions, cortisone and testosterone, but said he stopped doping in 2006. He admitted rule violations and was given a six month ban.
"Before I present the evidence and facts of my case to USADA, I am asking for additional time to conduct further investigation into this supplement, as there are still some questions that need to be answered. The biggest question: Did this company intentionally put the banned substance in the supplement to make it work better, or was it simply contamination? Right now there is evidence that points to both possibilities." Danielson's statement reads.
"While I am taking full responsibility for this supplement going into my body, finding the full answer is important to me. I want others to be able to learn from this mishap to avoid it happening to them in the future. WADA rules very are clear, I was responsible for what went into my body, no matter what.
"I wish now I had done this much research into my supplements before taking them, not just because of this test result, and the damage it's done to my career and my reputation, but also because of the potential damage I may have done to my body by ingesting this substance. With the additional information I hope to obtain over the next months, I hope to be able to share with others, to accurately educate them on the dangers of supplement use."
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