06
Jan
10

Zirbel keeps it light, waits for results

When the news of Tom Zirbel’s “A” sample coming up positive for DHEA came to light, my initial offering was that my impression of Tom’s handling of the issue seemed different – honest and sincere; I took his explanation of unknowing ingestion and believed him.  This wasn’t a man driven to extremes to excel, he just really enjoys competing.  His background seemed rich with what we in the Midwest call “moral fiber.”  He took the steps to come out and announce his issue, attended his “B” sample opening and having a background in chemistry, DHEA seemed to be an unusual suspect if he actually did choose to dope.  Unfortunately, most writing on Zirbel didn’t see it in the same light, preferring the dark room/bright-light-in-the-eyes approach.

On Tuesday, Tom took another unique step.   The typical approach of most riders who come up hot is a three step process – deny as they run from the media, disappear from sight with any comments through lawyers, and quietly spend two year suspension figuring out how to get back into the sport because riding bike is a lot more fun than working at a Spanish factory.  To paraphrase, Tom came out in his blog and said that life was fun; he loves racing his bike, but life goes on if this doesn’t turn out.  He thanked his fans for the support and his website for auto-removing profane comments.   He realizes most people’s instant reaction is “guilty” and doesn’t hold anybody at fault for that.  He is anxiously awaiting results and hoping the “B” comes back negative.  In the meantime, he’s working with experts who are trying to find out why he has an elevated level of a naturally occurring, but really not performance enhancing (well, except in the context of late night infomercial performance enhancing), substance.

The key elements of my first reaction came ringing through again.  This isn’t a man who spent his life as a peasant on the Italian countryside dreaming of Coppi-type glory.  This is a guy who took up bike racing because his knees wouldn’t let him run anymore, but really enjoys competing.  This isn’t a man vehemently denying allegations while not being able to look you in the eye.  This is a guy who wore a “cycling is dope” shirt to the opening of his “B” sample because he needed a laugh in light of the stress.

I’ll admit to being as cynical as the average cycling fan.  Other than this specific instance, I have presumed guilt.  I remember watching the Giro last year and saying “Di Luca is riding out of his mind.  I wonder when he’ll come back positive.”  Given my relative level of successful intuition-from-a-distance before, I’m sticking with it now.   Last year, a relatively prominent Texan who has lived with suspicion for most of his career had the effective slogan “Hope Rides Again.” It was inspiring for its intended purpose then, but can be altered slightly in this case to say “Hope He Rides Again.”

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2 Responses to “Zirbel keeps it light, waits for results”


  1. 1 Delilahdriver
    January 9, 2010 at 4:33 am

    Thank you Jeff, for a very clear view of the picture. I know Tom feels the same way about your support. The latest interview on Podium Insight is very good too. Stay warm, my friend.

  2. 2 Amos & Rachel Wood
    January 20, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    This can’t be the first time an athlete has been falsely accused and put through the wringer. Tom will do his best to get to the bottom of this whole mess. He just may be the catalyst for other honest, hard-working athletes who live to do their utmost without superficial or illegal substances to enhance their abilities – others who are wrongfully smeared as he has been. Thank you for your support. Go Tom !!!!


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