Tuesday, October 26, 2010

To Mr. Tomaso Zirbel

Tomaso, I believe you know more or less how I've come to feel about your case, but, after reading your recent commentary, one thing I want to emphasize for our readers - who might not have as sophisticated an understanding as you do of the two cases you cite - it's really CONI that appears to be capable of dubious action (in the case of Di Luca) whereas USADA continues to toe a consistently-hard line (and it sounds like Merritt won't be able to defend his Olympic titles - though I don't agree that the IOC holds any "moral high ground" - they're as corrupt as they come). And I doubt that USADA, had it been party to Di Luca's case, would ever have consented to such a radical reduction in his suspension - when the rider himself goes to great lengths to point out that his cooperation was completely devoid of any significant assistance in identifying other riders using doping products to unfairly earn hundreds of thousands of euros per year.

“I gave no names,” said Di Luca. “I did it for (the good of) cycling, not to point the finger at any cyclists."

No doubt that your cycling career was destroyed at its zenith by a case of inadvertent ingestion of DHEA, and you are paying the price in the form of a full two year ban (how many tens of thousands of dollars would it have cost you to post-up the experts and legal guidance necessary to prove your innocence and obtain a reduction in your ban? $150,000? A quarter of a million dollars? That works out to more per month in legal and scientific expert fees than most guys earn in two years in the US domestic peloton).

But I don't think that USADA is the villain here - they seem to be reasonably consistent in applying what seems more and more to be unfair penalties against those who've accidentally ingested "banned" products like DHEA. (It also bears mentioning that DHEA doesn't work, as you well know, and there IS a radical difference b/w what one can infer about an athlete's motivation when he's been "caught" w/ DHEA vs. EPO - apples and oranges...)

It seems to be the Italian anti-doping system that which is, at least on the surface, unreasonably lenient in allowing an admitted doper like Di Luca to escape the full sanction despite not providing truly significant assistance in the form of fingering his colleagues in the peloton (spitting in the proverbial soup, he'd call it).

Were he holder of a US license, I suspect Di Luca would be sitting out more than two years, whereas if you were Italian, perhaps a case would never have been brought against Tomaso Zirbel.

No one is perfect, and certainly no agency is above reproach in the fight against doping in sport. But for the most part, USADA seems to me to try to apply consistent sanctions to ensure that there is some measure of fairness - even if that fairness takes the form of still-significant sanctions for all athletes (or most athletes) convicted of inadvertent doping violations...

Keep your chin up and keep trying to stay productive during your sanction, invest that $$$ that you saved by declining to arbitrate your case and come back for a few more years once you're cleared. There's no reason to think you'll have lost the class that took you almost as far as a medal in the elite World ITT. I know it en vogue to be jaded and cynical once you've been banned, but it's crazy to think that even two years away from the sport will succeed in erasing a love of cycling from your DNA.

Good luck!

3 comments:

  1. Wow, did this really come from you, Joe? You threw Tom under the bus just a year ago. I'm glad to see that you do look at it from both sides now.
    Just as part of me wants to feel bad for your current predicament, and that part is grateful for the remorse you show. But there's still a part that thinks: "here's a guy that knowingly screwed the system by doping. Then after getting caught, didn't change his ways, stayed on course and went on to become a dealer of dope. I'm sure somewhere there will be a price to pay, and I hope that you will take it like a man and admit you did the crime, now you do the time. Stay strong Joe, and keep on the good side of the line. Everybody makes a mistake, and I guess some even make a second mistake before they learn.

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  2. Thanks for taking the time to 1) notice and 2) comment, Anon.

    It's late, so you'll forgive me for not responding at length, but what neither you nor anyone else not intimately involved with my case knows is that there is a multi-layered story that explains much of what was going on in 2007 and goes a long way to helping people to understand how and why things occurred that now just appear contradictory. None of this is anything I'll be talking about before my sentencing, but there will be a full and complete accounting some day. Things aren't always as cut-and-dried as they seem.

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  3. I look forward to the full story one day.

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