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The news of Tom Zirbel’s positive test for DHEA was a shock to many, even those of us at Pappillon with a more cynical view of the sport (hardened by experience). But, with only an “A”-sample result and no B, let alone an arbitration hearing, there still exists the possibility that Zirbel will prove his innocence.

No one enjoys watching the unmasking of their heroes as sporting frauds, and many will continue to believe in a doper’s innocence long after circumstantial evidence says otherwise, but before the final verdict is delivered (be it by USADA or CAS). One of our contributors had this to say on the matter:

“[Innocent-because-he-is-nice fan says:] ‘I just don’t believe that a //BLANK// would cheat…it can’t be true…!

Please insert the following for //BLANK//, as you see fit:

– Nice Guy
– Amish dude
– Cancer Survivor
– Well-educated person
– Guy who swore he was clean to Congress
– Father
– Son
– Mother of two
– Person who went on Oprah
– Hero to millions
– Christian
– etc. etc. etc.

I’ve heard it all, man. You can’t believe anyone anymore.”

Now if that’s not cynical, we don’t know what is! In the spirit of “we’ve heard it all before,” Pappillon will soon run a series of old articles on doping from the 1980’s to highlight an era of our sport’s history in this country that many – unfortunately – would rather soon forget. We’re not embarking upon this to air dirty laundry, but rather, to remind the US cycling scene that nice guys do dope – even when they’re wearing the stars-and-stripes, and hell, even if what they did technically wasn’t doping at the time.

Tom Zirbel Tests Positive for DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone)

I don’t know Tom Zirbel as a person so I can’t speak to his character, and I have no first-hand knowledge of his supplement use or medical care (if he received any), let alone whether or not he actually ingested DHEA. But if his B-sample comes back positive or he otherwise fails to clear his name, his world is going to implode, and it won’t be pretty.

Cyclingnews.com reports, “Tom Zirbel has announced he tested positive in an anti-doping test conducted by the United States Anti Doping Association (USADA) following the US Pro time trial championships on August 29, 2009. The A-sample returned positive for an endogenous steroid Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). Zirbel awaits the response of the B sample. ‘I want to inform the cycling community that an ‘A’ sample of mine from a urine test conducted by USADA on Aug. 29, 2009 after the US Pro TT has tested positive for exogenous DHEA,’ Zirbel said. ‘I have not yet received notification from USADA on the findings of the ‘B’ sample, but I expect to receive word any day now.’…”

I can empathize with what Zirbel might feel then, should the B-sample come back positive, as you all know that my own career ended when I was just 31 and was caught doping – which was devastating. Worse, almost no one could understand that, even though I’d brought it on myself to a large degree by doping shamelessly for five years, the feeling of being ripped from the womb of cycling left me so disoriented and adrift that life temporarily lost all meaning and hope. So if Tom doped and is found guilty and sanctioned – or if he didn’t dope but is still sanctioned because of a false positive – I want him to know that he’s not alone and there are other cyclists who can understand the hell in which he’ll find himself and can offer their support. Myself included.

Tom’s case isn’t being adjudicated in the US criminal justice system, so the operative theory isn’t “Innocent until Proven Guilty” and given what I know about the sophistication of doping in cycling, the ease with which controls can be thwarted, the capacity of humans to lie, cheat and steal to get to satisfy their ambition, and the fallibility of even the most pious, saintly men, of course I think it’s possible that he doped. However, it’s also possible that it’s a false positive, though the statistical likelihood of such an anomaly is slight, if I remember correctly.

If Tom is going to first be tried in a court of public opinion, well, then he sure sounds guilty when he says something as disingenuous as “I didn’t knowingly ingest any DHEA,” “I’m ignorant about these things, I didn’t know what DHEA was until I was first notified about my A sample positive.” [ref] Hey, guess what? I didn’t knowingly ingest the steroid (probably some brand of Testosterone Undecanoate ) that led to my positive urinalysis, though it’s entirely possible that it was there because my team gave me a doping product that metabolized into 6α-OH-androstenedione or 6β-OH-androsterone. Furthermore, it is utterly unbelievable that a professional like Tom Zirbel who earns his living from the bike and who would eventually negotiate a contract with a ProTour team for 2010, wouldn’t know what DHEA was as of late-summer 2009, when it was THE doping product that effectively ended Tyler Hamilton’s career – in APRIL 2009.

BUT, by the same token, and in Tom’s defense, the lab very well have made an error. Just like I didn’t knowingly ingest anything that could have left the metabolites 6α-OH-androstenedione or 6β-OH-androsterone, I had taken five other doping products that an accredited-lab failed to detect. I hope people consider both scenarios while we wait for the official disclosure. USADA is a very professional, well-run, seemingly fair organization, and they don’t strike me as being the type of people who persecute athletes. In fact, USADA is scrupulous about protecting the privacy of accused athletes, such that when I called a contact there today to discuss the “Zirbel Situation,” he wasn’t even aware that the cyclist had gone ahead and preemptively announced his A-sample result. USADA would have kept that private until well after the B-sample was analyzed (assuming it was also positive and the athlete chose to continue to defend against the charges). A lab, however, that made an error in analyzing a sample or reporting its findings would have a strong disincentive to publicly admit that and an unethical employee or lab director might hang an athlete out to dry. Might.

I know for a fact that a rider was positive for EPO when he won a US National Criterium Championship – he took a full-strength, non-micro dose within the time frame during which he should have been positive. In fact, his “A” sample WAS positive, but his “B” was declared negative because the EPO levels were interpreted to fall just below the cut-off for a definitive positive. So the labs can make mistakes. Guilty go free (only to be caught later). Some riders cheat. I hope most do not. But to be in Tom’s shoes right now is to be in hell and I wish him and his family the best regardless of what the truth of the matter is.

My Only Cycling-related Prediction for 2010

My only cycling-related prediction for 2010 that I think is worth noticing by the pundits and punters alike is that young pro/elite riders will realize the value of making their own independently articulated anti-doping stances, and @bikepure (BikePure/bikepure.org) will be the vehicle of choice by which they release these statements and give meaning to them through ongoing action and commitment. They will eschew traditional cycling media and hired-gun PR flaks, and will use “established” blogs and outlets as secondary or tertiary distribution vehicles. Likewise, non-elite riders will make the same kinds of declarations through @BikePure because there is finally a critical mass or fans who are frustrated enough with the rot that has festered inside cycling for so long – a cancer with which I, too, was infected and that I even – to my most profound shame – helped to spread for a time – until the insanity stopped.

While I support @BikePure, the prediction I refer to in this post is based on my own analysis and soundings taken at various points throughout our sport. I’m not paid to promote Bike Pure, or otherwise lobby on their behalf. I’d do that anyway – for free!

But if you believe in clean cycling, and you are bored with endless forum discussions about the doping problem and feel powerless to effect change – rejoice! In Bike Pure, you may have a means to turn individual frustration into collective, game-changing action. I know that I’m wearing MY blue wristband and have a blue headset space on the bike I can’t ride! I don’t agree with every aspect of the proposals BP would like to put forward to fight doping in sport – but, in the sign of a truly “open” and inclusive organization, Andy and Myles don’t require orthodoxy from their supporters. Dialogue leading to action rids cycling of dope. Bike Pure has a role to play in that process, and I’ll let the organization speak for itself below:

Bike Pure is an independent, global organization for fans, riders and the cycle trade to join together in a united stance for a new era of positive cycling.

Bike Pure will spearhead constructive, structured reform, to restore the integrity of cycle sport and create a nurturing environment for future champions to succeed.
Bike Pure is committed to redirecting trust to Professional cycle sport. Bike Pure is an umbrella group for all concerned parties in cyclesport. A medium to let the fans, riders, teams and cycle trade join together in a united stance for an new era of clean cycling
For decades cycling has had a problem with endemic drug use. The cheats have destroyed the public image of cycling. Although the sport is cleaning up, there were over 60 riders caught cheating in 2009 using artificial, performance enhancing methods. Cycling fans worldwide deserve heroes they can believe in: Clean up or clear out. We desire a truly clean sport, with real riders that the fans, sponsors and media can have faith in.
With the aid of our global, talented membership we are proposing structural reform to the system that is failing the next generation of champions. Each member has a forum to let his voice be heard through Bike Pure.
Bike Pure encourage the athletes and teams to sign an ‘Honour Code’, declaring that they race clean, without performance enhancing drugs and with a pledge that will encourage our sport to flourish. If any rider should be deemed positive, Bike Pure are lobbying for stiffer penalties for offenders – 4 year ban minimum and life bans for repeat offenders [Editor’s Note: Here is an instance where Joe Papp does not blindly follow Bike Pure – he does not support a four-year minimum ban for a first-time offender.]. It is through the actions and support of our members that we can apply pressure on authorities for these measures to be implicated.
Riders responsible for their own behaviour, their sponsors can have faith that their investment is safe, and the public can have confidence in the results if they are clean.
We are not naive to think this is a complete solution, but it is an important first element getting the clean riders to joining forces with the supporters and laying a foundation to protect the mental and physical health of future champions and the integrity of our wonderful sport.”

Twittering Cyclists – the Definitive Listing

Finally, listings of men and women cyclists connected to the elite level of our sport who are Twittering away (instead of riding km’s?):

Scotland Lifts Commonwealth Life Ban on Millar

Scotland will allow cyclist David Millar to compete for his nation at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India after he won an appeal against his life ban.

Commonwealth Games Scotland has lifted a ban that was enforced after Millar, 32, was suspended from cycling for two years in 2004 for using drug EPO. “David has become a campaigner and educator about doping since returning,” said CGS chief executive Jon Doig. “He has gone to great lengths to rehabilitate himself.”

Doig added: “He has shared his experiences with others in an attempt to promote the anti-doping message. “David has now been cleared to compete for Scotland in Delhi, subject to achieving the necessary performance selection standards.”

I made mistakes as a younger athlete in a dirty sport, and I will have to live with those mistakes for the rest of my life, but I have changedDavid Millar 
Millar is likely to have little trouble meeting the criteria to get into the team for Delhi, judging by his performances in the Tour de France and other major championships since his return.

He will also deliver an anti-doping seminar to young Scottish athletes as a condition of his return to the Commonwealth Games team.

“I am absolutely delighted with the decision,” said Millar, who is still not eligible to ride at the Olympics because the British Olympic Association take a hard-line stance against drug offenders.

“It would be an honour to race for Scotland at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi and to give something back to the country that has given me so much.

“I am proud to be a Scot and feel that I have been supported incredibly through the bad times as well as the good by Scotland.

“I made mistakes as a younger athlete in a dirty sport, and I will have to live with those mistakes for the rest of my life, but I have changed and I know I bring something beneficial to not only cycling but also sport as a whole.

“I have been so proactive in my fight against doping because I believe I can make a difference and I also believe that the mistakes I made as an athlete were fully preventable.

“If the example I now give and education I provide can prevent a younger version of me from making the same mistakes I made, then I could not ask for more.”

Story from BBC SPORT  Published: 2009/12/22 07:51:18 GMT  © BBC MMIX

Merry Christmas!

And…not related to cycling, but rather to sport (golf, via the Tiger) and Christmas (via MADTV-humor):

Tiger Woods T’was the Night Before Christmas Poem
Twas the night of Thanksgiving and out of the house
Tiger Woods came a flyin’, chased by his spouse.
She wielded a nine iron and wasn’t too merry,
Cause a bimbo’s phone number was in his Blackberry.
He’d been cheatin’ on Elin, and the story progressed.
Woman after woman stepped up and confessed.
He’d been cheatin’ with Holly, and Jaimee, and Cori,
With Joselyn, and Kalika. The world had the story.
From the top of the Tour to the basement of blues,
Tiger’s sad sordid tale was all over the news.
With hostesses, waitresses, he had lots of sex,
When not in their pants, he was sendin’ them texts.
Despite all his cryin’ and beggin’ and pleadin’,
Tiger’s wife went investin’ — a new home in Sweden.
And I heard her exclaim from her white Escalade,
“If you’re gettin’ laid then I’m gettin’ paid.”
She’s not pouting, in fact, she is of jolly good cheer,
Her prenup made Christmas come early this year.

We know we can’t leave you with Tiger-bashing on Christmas morn, so here is Pappillon’s present to you: images of the new WC previewed from the site of the great Tim De Waele/TDWsport (We’re working on an arrangement that would allow Pappillon reasonable access to the entire TDWsport archive. Stay tuned!)


PR: Duvel/Moorgat Selects Flandrian as Brand Ambassador

Frequent Pappillon contributor Patrick “The Flandrian” Lyons has reached a 2-year sponsorship agreement with Belgian Brewery Duvel/Moorgat. Lyons will serve as a brand ambassador for Duvel, representing the line by his activities in the upper echelons of competitive cycling.

For Lyons, who cut his teeth racing as an elite amateur in Holland and Belgium, the deal with Duvel is something of a Christmas Miracle. Because of budget cuts and a shift in marketing strategies among the global economic down-turn, Lyon’s previous sponsor Heineken/Amstel Light did not renew. Their withdrawal created an opportunity for Duvel, however, who will now enjoy the services of an ex-Special Forces-soldier-turned-bike racer for what promise to be two action-packed seasons.

Negotiations were rapid, according to Public Relations Director Larry Bennett at Duvel, and the agreement was reached late yesterday, US-time. “We are excited to have Patrick back with the Duvel family – he is a great ambassador to the brand and sport,” said Bennett.

With Duvel now secured as title sponsor, Lyons is moving quickly to fill-out his stable of supporters. To that end, the Duvel/Moorgat-backed rider convinced Eric Sakolowsky of Velo Europa to provide Cyfac bicycles for 2010. In a familiar refrain for those who work with Lyons, Sakolowsky gushed, “This is an exciting partnership with Patrick, Duvel and Cyfac.”

Lyons will compete in events in the northeast and mid-Atlantic regions of the United States, and already has invitations in hand for several post-Tour de France criteriums in Belgium and Holland. He is also targeting a good ride in the 2010 Press World Cycling Championships in September in Belgium. “While I aim to represent all of my sponsors with consistent performances throughout the year – serving as a true brand ambassador – I’m especially focused on a good result at the Press Worlds,” revealed Lyons. Yes, he is a man of many talents, for in addition to coaching, competing and managing riders, Lyons is an accredited cycling journalist, and staff writer at The Daily Peloton.