Tom Zirbel's B sample positive for DHEA. A + B = bad news.

Labels don't mean, well, much.

You do not want to be in Tom Zirbel’s cycling shoes today.

On his blog, Zirbel announced his B-sample came back from the WADA accredited lab at the University of Utah testing positive for the banned steroid DHEA. Positive A plus positive B equals a two year non-cycling vacation.

“As expected (though hope plays funny games with your mind), the ‘B’ sample of my urine has come back confirming the presence of an exogenous anabolic in my system from the Aug. 29, 2009 test,” wrote Zirbel.

“I expect USADA to come back with a two-year sanction any day now but I’m tired of waiting for them so I decided to let everyone know what’s going on.”

The 31 year old Zirbel is expected to mount a defense based on supplement contamination. The former Bissel and almost-Garmin rider insists he did not knowingly take a banned substance.

Zibel was poised for a major career boost after a fourth overall behind David Zabriskie in the Tour of Missouri and another fourth in the time trial at the world championships in Mendrisio, Switzerland.

Again, you wouldn’t want to be in his cycling shoes because proving contamination means  plenty of research and legwork. It’s needle in a haystack, find the taint in the supplement.

“There will probably be a hearing in a few months where I will proclaim my innocence,” he wrote. “We all know the drill! How many times have we been through this with this sport? I even secured one of those lawyer fellas to help me through this. We are still attempting to figure out how this happened and I’m optimistic that we’ll have an answer in time for the hearing.”

That lawyer fella better be damn smart — smarter than the legal consul for Tyler Hamilton and Kenny Williams — two other American riders nailed for the steroid DHEA. It’s going to be a long, hard, expensive slog with little chance of vindication.

While awaiting his B-sample results, Zibel had written,  ”Life is too full of OTHER cool and exciting things that I can dive into head first,” said Zirbel. “It’s also far too short to dwell in the past and be miserable.”

We hope that’s true, and maybe that high school science teacher job he talked about is available. Unfortunately, Twisted Spoke keeps thinking about the words of Joe Papp, himself a rider whose career ended after a doping violation. Joe summed it up this way: “his world is going to implode.”

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  • http://www.joepapp.com Joe Papp

    Matt, I hope you follow the Zirbel case through to its inevitable conclusion and beyond. I anxiously await Zirbel's attempts to live a "real-life" after his cycling career ends prematurely thanks to DHEA.

    • Delilahdriver

      Inevitable conclusion? You don't know what the conclusion will be, and you don't know if Tom's career is ending either. You certainly don't know Tom. Stick to what you DO know–your own doping case.

      • walshworld

        Hi Delilahdriver, I knew another Zirbel post guaranteed me another harangue from your corner of the blogosphere. Have you no appreciation for the incredible marketing gift I gave you? A name like Zealots for Zirbel will galvanize the troops and raise oodles of cash to clear Tom's name. Marketing is my business, sugar. Get yourself organized and stop wasting time firing off angry comments at everyone with a difference of opinion.

  • Delilahdriver

    Mr. Walsh, I knew you'd remember me. And you're swell to give me all the free marketing advice. Who knew? Do you consider it a waste of your time to respond to me? I hope not. see ya, wouldn't wanna be ya

  • http://www.joepapp.com JoeP

    So Tom officially retired. Or at least he tried to convince himself that he's capable of retiring. I really feel for the guy, for he made a statement that reveals the horror that awaits him on a daily basis, as he desperately longs to return to living the life of a pro, all the while knowing at best it will be two long years before he can turn a pedal in anger. Zirbel said:

    “Now that I've made the determination that I really could and would walk away from the sport forever, it's liberating. USADA, WADA, and the UCI no longer have power over me. But I will continue to jump through a few hoops (if not neither too high nor on fire) in order to leave the option open for a return in years to come (though I sort of hope I have the courage to begin a completely new career and never look back).”

    ***"…though I sort of hope I have the courage to begin a completely new career and never look back).”***

    So many people think I am a bastard and should be anally-raped in prison, or that I'm an emotional wreck after losing a wife, never meeting my son and experiencing financial ruin after my doping positive. Sure, I'd like some more emotional support, but God help the pro cyclist kicked out of his sport when he was just entering his prime and about to sign a ProTour contract, forced into a (doping-derived) retirement yet boasting:

    “I've come to the realization that I would rather be a David Benke [math school teacher who rushed a gunman on his campus] than a Cancellara. I would rather help the boy I'm mentoring graduate from college and break the cycle of poverty in his family than win a Pro Tour TT. To me, the life I'm choosing from this day on is more challenging and potentially rewarding than the life of training to ride in a straight line really fast for 40 minutes. For whatever reason, I haven't been able to do both so it's time to step back and re-prioritize.”

    ***"…though I sort of hope I have the courage to begin a completely new career and never look back).”***

    While we were soft-pedaling at the back of the bunch in one of the greatest stage races in Latin America, the now-defunct Vuelta a Chile, the classy Colombian climber Ivan Parra (then riding for Kelme) told me that (and I paraphrase) "Pro cycling is like a disease or an addiction, a sickness that we cannot cure ourselves of. I am just lucky to be good enough at it to earn a living that provides a comfortable life for my family."

    During one of my last races in Italy, the GF Valli Parmensi, I wept as I led the field in a single-file line for dozens of kilometers with only the most trivial help from my teammates. Our medical prep for the day consisted of the usual EPO, HGH and Synacthen, but we'd also been dosed with some form of pot belge. Of course I was cheating, in the wrong, morally bankrupt and a scoundrel, but like Parra said, the love for the bike and il ciclismo was itself an addiction. I knew full well that my career would be over in a matter of weeks, and the pain that realization caused in my heart was one-thousand times worse than the burning in my legs that I still felt, even with an Hct of 55. I was a doper. Tom Zirbel says he wasn't, though USADA says he is and Tom didn't contest the two-year ban he received – neither did I. But what's salient is the fact that doped or not, caught cheating or safe-for-another-day, some riders come to love cycling so much that the fabric of their very souls is stitched into the rich tapestry of the sport. I was one of them. Maybe Tom Zirbel is not. But to "sort of hope" that you "have the courage to…never look back" is to all but admit that you, too, live to ride and ride to live.

    Good luck, Tom Zirbel, but take it from me, you're going to look back – maybe infrequently, or maybe every goddamn day…give me a call if you need to talk.

    PS. Here is the website of that race at which I wept http://www.valliparmensi.it/.

    And here is a photo of my teammates and me (we finished 1-2-3…):

    http://picasaweb.google.it/gfvalliparmensi/GFVall….

  • http://www.joepapp.com Joe Papp

    So Tom officially retired. Or at least he tried to convince himself that he’s capable of retiring. I really feel for the guy, for he made a statement that reveals the horror that awaits him on a daily basis, as he desperately longs to return to living the life of a pro, all the while knowing at best it will be two long years before he can turn a pedal in anger. Zirbel said:

    “Now that I’ve made the determination that I really could and would walk away from the sport forever, it’s liberating. USADA, WADA, and the UCI no longer have power over me. But I will continue to jump through a few hoops (if not neither too high nor on fire) in order to leave the option open for a return in years to come (though I sort of hope I have the courage to begin a completely new career and never look back).”

    ***”…though I sort of hope I have the courage to begin a completely new career and never look back).”***

    So many people think I am a bastard and should be anally-raped in prison, or that I’m an emotional wreck after losing a wife, never meeting my son and experiencing financial ruin after my doping positive. Sure, I’d like some more emotional support, but God help the pro cyclist kicked out of his sport when he was just entering his prime and about to sign a ProTour contract, forced into a (doping-derived) retirement yet boasting:

    “I’ve come to the realization that I would rather be a David Benke [math school teacher who rushed a gunman on his campus] than a Cancellara. I would rather help the boy I’m mentoring graduate from college and break the cycle of poverty in his family than win a Pro Tour TT. To me, the life I’m choosing from this day on is more challenging and potentially rewarding than the life of training to ride in a straight line really fast for 40 minutes. For whatever reason, I haven’t been able to do both so it’s time to step back and re-prioritize.”

    ***”…though I sort of hope I have the courage to begin a completely new career and never look back).”***

    While we were soft-pedaling at the back of the bunch in one of the greatest stage races in Latin America, the now-defunct Vuelta a Chile, the classy Colombian climber Ivan Parra (then riding for Kelme) told me that (and I paraphrase) “Pro cycling is like a disease or an addiction, a sickness that we cannot cure ourselves of. I am just lucky to be good enough at it to earn a living that provides a comfortable life for my family.”

    During one of my last races in Italy, the GF Valli Parmensi, I wept as I led the field in a single-file line for dozens of kilometers with only the most trivial help from my teammates. Our medical prep for the day consisted of the usual EPO, HGH and Synacthen, but we’d also been dosed with some form of pot belge. Of course I was cheating, in the wrong, morally bankrupt and a scoundrel, but like Parra said, the love for the bike and il ciclismo was itself an addiction. I knew full well that my career would be over in a matter of weeks, and the pain that realization caused in my heart was one-thousand times worse than the burning in my legs that I still felt, even with an Hct of 55. I was a doper. Tom Zirbel says he wasn’t, though USADA says he is and Tom didn’t contest the two-year ban he received – neither did I. But what’s salient is the fact that doped or not, caught cheating or safe-for-another-day, some riders come to love cycling so much that the fabric of their very souls is stitched into the rich tapestry of the sport. I was one of them. Maybe Tom Zirbel is not. But to “sort of hope” that you “have the courage to…never look back” is to all but admit that you, too, live to ride and ride to live.

    Good luck, Tom Zirbel, but take it from me, you’re going to look back – maybe infrequently, or maybe every goddamn day…give me a call if you need to talk.

    PS. Here is the website of that race at which I wept http://www.valliparmensi.it/.

    And here is a photo of my teammates and me (we finished 1-2-3…):

    http://picasaweb.google.it/gfvalliparmensi/GFVall….

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