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O'Bee handed lifetime ban after EPO positive

Kirk O'Bee in the US Crit Champ jersey

Kirk O'Bee in the US Crit Champ jersey (Image credit: Jon Devich)

Former US Criterium champion Kirk O'Bee has been handed a lifetime ban from competition by the United States Anti-doping Agency (USADA), it was announced today.

O'Bee, who tested positive in 2001 for testosterone at the US Pro road championships in Philadelphia and served a one-year ban, was given the lifetime ban after a May 20, 2009 out-of-competition sample came up positive for the banned blood booster EPO. He was fired from the Bissell team in August of 2009 for "unspecified contract violations".

USADA pursued the disqualification of O'Bee's results from as early as July 15, 2003, citing evidence of a "non-analytical positive", or evidence of doping in the absence of a positive doping control. Those results include his 2007 US Pro criterium championship victory won while riding for the Health Net team.

According to the decision, O'Bee did not contest the positive test, but objected to the introduction of charges of a non-analytical positive on procedural grounds and denied having used EPO prior to 2009. O'Bee denies having e-mail communications "discussing the purchase or usage of rhEPO or human growth hormone [hGH]" with Ellis Toussier, the self-professed "King of Growth Hormone" who sells the product from Mexico City.

The decision states that O'Bee claimed that his estranged, then live-in partner Suzanne Johnson had access to the computer and said she sent the messages without his permission.

The panel did not accept his argument, stating, "The forensically retrieved email correspondence between Mr. O'Bee and others along with documents copied from the hard drive of the desktop computer jointly owned and used by Mr. O'Bee and Ms. Johnson is sufficiently authentic and reliable evidence of Mr. O'Bee's doping violations."

They used correspondences between O'Bee and Toussier, Team Life Research, cyclists Kirk Ditterich and Nathan O'Neill as evidence of a non-analytical positive. The panel decided that despite there being no testimony from any witness who saw O'Bee type or send the messages, his argument that Ms. Johnson fabricated the emails was "convincingly rebutted by the uncontradicted testimony of USADA's two expert witnesses."

The evidence also included shipping documents for doping products which were sent to O'Bee's address when the couple were separated and living in different residences.

O'Bee's results from October 3, 2005 to July 29, 2009, the date he accepted the provisional suspension for his EPO positive, were nullified. October 3, 2005 was the date of the first correspondence with Toussier in which O'Bee wrote, "I've worked out the kinks in getting products across the border, so I'd like to inquire about an order of GH and EPO."

The full text of the arbitration panel's decision is available here.

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