Zirbel’s suspension cut thanks to “special assist.”

Zirbel back on the bike after assist.

Z-man is back. No, not Dave Zabriskie — he’s never been away. We’re talking about Tom Zirbel who just had his two year suspension for doping suspension cut six months short by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA)

“I’m happy to announce that USADA has reduced my sanction to end on March 21, 2011,” Zirbel wrote in an email to Cyclingnews. “Therefore, I have been allowed to race the rest of the 2011 season and beyond though I do not currently belong to a team.”

Why the reduction in sentence, you naturally ask? Is this one of those Danilo di Luca deals where Zirbel suddenly got a priest and some school kids together in a church and opened his heart?

Did the Spanish Cycling Federation call the US anti-doping agency and overrule their ruling? Did president Obama tweet a powerful message that Zirbel is a really tall, nice guy that deserves some leniency?

Well, may just a bit of that. Think basketball point guard and you get the idea. Zirbel handed out an assist. “There is a rule in the WADA Code that allows an anti-doping authority to offer a reduction in sanction in the event of ‘Substantial Assistance’ from a sanctioned athlete,” he said.

“My substantial assistance amounted to me putting USADA in touch with a person who had incriminating knowledge about an athlete who USADA was building a case against. And I actually did this in two separate cases that USADA was or is pursuing.”

Now, we’re happy for Tom Zirbel because in this sordid world of doping and nationalistic cycling federations and nearly criminal mismanagement of the sport by the UCI, Zirbel sticks out as a stand up guy. To this day, anyone who knows him swears on their blood, first born and house deed that he was innocent.

The funny thing that struck us was this: how did Zirbel know this “person with incriminating knowledge” about the doping of another athlete — two athletes, in fact? Did he just happen to meet him at a garage sale and struck up a conversation about illicit activities? Was he wearing a wire, did he go undercover or was this just a friend of a friend in an old address book that he thought might be handy?

“Honestly, it’s a little silly that I’m getting a reduction in sanction for something that has absolutely nothing to do with me, but apparently that’s how this game is played,” he said.

Now, we tend to believe in Zirbel’s story these days and we’re happy to see him getting back to racing a bike, we’re just wondering how that association with this person occurred. If it had nothing to do with Zirbel then he’d have no knowledge of this person, right? Just a question we’re curious about.

In any case, we hope that almost-deal with Jonathan Vaughters is still on the table. Welcome back, ya big galoot.

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  • http://twitter.com/jonathonholmes @jonathonholmes

    After Garmin's weekend, I do believe JV may be more open to sign on a rider of TommyZ's caliber causing Trent Lowe a bit of disbelief. Also, I do believe that clean riders are well aware of who's doping and the sources utilized to pull that trigger. Seems like the peloton rumor mill is on par with the Jersey Shore clan.

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com TwistedSpoke

      Tour of the Jersey Shore — sounds like a great race. You make a good point but JV also took on a previous time trial expert with a doping past — David Millar. Matt

      • http://twitter.com/jonathonholmes @jonathonholmes

        The Garmin boys are going to need to have an answer as they suffered a precission dismantling like a Chrstina Watch in the hands of a fine Swiss watchmaker. They need someone capable of answering FabianC when he goes itnto tuck mode. JV mentioned negative race tactics to contain FC… Like any tactics are anything more than wishful thinking. I like Thor and Haussler and would love to see a big win for the Garmin squad in the coming weeks. Thanks for your delightful takes on the boys of the peloton. ~ jon

      • http://www.atwistedspoke.com TwistedSpoke

        Thanks Jon, compliments are food for a blogger. Best to luck to my fave team. Hoping for the best or a sniper. Matt

  • Sam

    As with anything, there is more to this story. The athletes that are currently under investigation mentioned by Zirbel could be big names, or little names, they could even be names on Novitzky's list. This could be fodder for a new Lance and Landis Chapter. Only the twistedspoke knows.

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com TwistedSpoke

      Sam, the Lance & Landis show is overdue for a new episode but I don't see a connection yet between Zibel and those two. Sure would be interesting to here more of the background of this story. Matt