By Brian Holcombe
Tom Zirbel, who finished second to Dave Zabriskie for the second consecutive year at the USA Cycling Professional Individual Time Trial Championships in August, confirmed Sunday that his “A” sample from that race tested positive for exogenous dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA).
DHEA is the multi-functional steroid for which Tyler Hamilton tested positive in February 2009. Hamilton confirmed that he had tested positive for the substance, saying it was in an herbal remedy he used to treat depression, and retired from cycling.
Zirbel, however, proclaimed his innocence.
“The U.S. pro TT was a major objective of mine this season, but I would never compromise my integrity for any bike race,” Zirbel said.
“At this point, I don’t know how this happened, but regardless of the outcome of my ‘B’ sample, I intend to find out with the help of a few accomplished scientists and doctors who have selflessly helped me since I first was notified of the ‘A’ findings.”
Should his B sample also be positive, Zirbel faces a two-year racing ban.
Zirbel, who won the National Racing Calendar individual title in 2009, is a time-trial specialist who scored wins in the discipline at the Cascade Cycling Classic, Fitchburg Longsjo Classic, Nature Valley Grand Prix and Tour of Utah.
He made his European debut in September, finishing fourth in the individual time trial at the UCI Road World Championships in Mendrisio, Switzerland, after taking an early lead and sitting in the “hot seat” for nearly three hours.
Earlier this year, Zirbel signed a contract to join Zabriskie at Garmin-Transitions in 2010. But he was not listed on the final UCI roster submitted by the team and released last week, and Slipstream Sports CEO Jonathan Vaughters said Zirbel would not be joining the Boulder-based team.
“Tom has been up front with me about this process from the beginning,” said Vaughters via e-mail. “However, our anti-doping policy is zero tolerance. Tom alerted us to the situation and as a result he will not be riding for us in 2010.
“I hope that USADA comes to the correct and fair solution in this, and every, anti-doping case.”
—VeloNews senior online editor Charles Pelkey contributed to this report.