Professional cyclist Tom Zirbel announced on Friday that his B sample tested by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) had returned positive for the banned steroid Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). Zirbel faces a two-year suspension as he awaits the USADA hearing.
“After going over the data and lab reports from the first test, it was clear that the Utah lab did a good and thorough job with the 'A,’ Zirbel said. “My brain told me that the 'B' would confirm, but of course my heart butted in and gave me hope.”
When asked what the next steps would be to defend his publicly stated innocence, Zirbel said, “I'm not sure but I think my lawyer and the USADA lawyers will get together and use big Latin words and decide on some dates and deadlines for us to get our defense in place and USADA's prosecution.”
Zirbel’s urine sample was taken by USADA following the US Pro Time Trial Championships on August 29, 2009. The sample was tested at the World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory (SMRTL) at the University of Utah. The A sample came back positive for DHEA in early November.
Following the news of the positive A sample, he stated that he did not knowingly ingest DHEA. He continues to work with a team of specialists to determine why his urine produced elevated levels of the steroid.
“I'm working with a lawyer, a scientist, and some labs to determine how this happened and what course of action to take as a defense,” Zirbel said. “Nothing concrete yet. I'm learning patience in all of this as nothing happens quickly.”
Zirbel signed a contract with the ProTour team Garmin-Transitions for the 2010 season. However, that contract was terminated following the results of his A-sample in November. He competed for the US-Continental team Bissell Professional Cycling in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
He is a time-trial specialist having placed inside the top ten in three editions of the Tour of California individual time trial along with two second placed finishes in the US Pro Time Trial Championships in 2008 and 2009 in Greenville, South Carolina. He concreted his position amongst the world-class contenders when he placed fourth at the 2009 UCI Time Trial World Championships in September in Mendrisio, Switzerland.
“I'm doing okay,” Zirbel said. “It depends on the day. Some days I'm very cynical and angry and others I'm able to laugh off all the drama and know that things will of course work themselves out no matter what. Whether that means I walk away from the sport or whether that means I'm racing by the end of this year - I don't know. Maybe as a result of this, I find a very fulfilling and sustainable job unrelated to cycling. In that case, I'd say it "worked out in my favor".
“This suspension stuff is mostly out of my control,” he added. “I know I didn't cheat and my friends and family know I didn't cheat so I'm trying not to waste my time convincing a person on the other side of the country who sits on his laptop spending time writing scathing anonymous posts but won't spend time researching the facts nor looking at my situation in any way impartially.”