Pessimism and the Power of a Website: A Message from Tom Zirbel.

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We got an unsolicited email from Mr. Tom Zirbel recently regarding recent post of ours. The title alone is enough to tell you the direction it took, the author called it: Another one eats it. The tone was tough as we don’t often pull our punches.

From: Tom Zirbel
Hey man,

I’ve been getting brave lately and reading what others have to say about my case. I figured DC would be good for extremes. I just ask you to be careful about the attitude you’re propagating. The pessimism you exude about our sport is not doing any good. It’s fine that you write for entertainment purposes but you’ve obviously got quite the following so with that comes some responsibility to cycling (if you care about the sport).

It’s okay that you believe I’m a cheater, but in saying so I would hope that you’ve done your due diligence and looked at the research on DHEA as a performance enhancer, looked at the prevalence of anabolic contamination in supplements (18% in a recent study), taken into account how often I was tested (11 times in 2009 so why would I take something so easily tested for), and so on. I don’t expect people who don’t know me to believe me, but I do expect people who say I’m undoubtedly a cheater to at least have researched the issue a bit. And please, just understand that you hold some power with this forum and your pessimism rubs off on others.

And if I am able to prove that the DHEA got into my system without my knowing, I hope you’ll post that on your little soap box blog.

I replied and inquired about posting his message on the site. I told him then what I will repeat now: If it turns out in the DHEA got into his system through a contaminated supplement (or other such route), we will post such information. We’re not out to nail any particular person, we’re calling out the entire ridiculous system.

I don’t know this guy from Adam. But, I hope he does come out on top of this. I appreciate the fact he wrote the email and said what he has to say.

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About big jonny

The man, the legend. The guy who started it all back in the Year of Our Lord Beer, 2000, with a couple of pages worth of idiotic ranting hardcoded on some random porn site that would host anything you uploaded, a book called HTML for Dummies (which was completely appropriate), a bad attitude (which hasn’t much changed), and a Dell desktop running Win95 with 64 mgs of ram and a six gig hard drive. Those were the days. Then he went to law school. Go figure. Flagstaff, Arizona, USA

29 thoughts on “Pessimism and the Power of a Website: A Message from Tom Zirbel.

  1. This is a total bitch move, big jonny you cut him too much slack. the same argument should be turned around on Zirbel. If he is a pro athlete, knows dhea is illegal and takes supplements then he should do his research and know that there is an 18% contamination rate and adjust his supplementation accordingly. The onus is on him to do this research ex ante, not DC writers to do it ex poste to “be nice” to the guy.

    So this means that either he is a cheater and is whining after the fact, or he is an idiot for not doing his research about the tools he uses to make a living. Pretty convenient to quote this stuff after the fact…

    either way, bitch move

  2. “The pessimism you exude about our sport is not doing any good.”

    yeah, we’re totally pessimistic about cycling over here. that’s one way to put it. another way to put it would be that we don’t really like dirty cheaters. not calling you one, just saying we don’t care for that bullshit. ESPECIALLY NOT when you lie about it. not saying you are.

    the only thing we’re pessimistic about here are our high BAC race results. fun first. that’s the message.

    pessimistic. that’s fucking weak. period.

  3. As a guy who used to be quite into racing my bike and as a journalist who used to frequently write about cycling, I found the ubiquity of doping in cycling (at the pro and amateur levels–yes, I’m talking even cat 4’s, master’s racers, etc) so blatant and the media’s complicity in covering it up so equally blatant that I stopped writing about pro cycling and started Wow this excuse comes up a lot. I am/was a Zirbel fan and I don’t really have an opinion about whether he cheated or not. Winners in cycling cheat and don’t get caught. Payoffs, bribes, better drugs, better relationships with the media and governing bodies, better evasion systems–that’s what winners have. Hopefully Tom didn’t cheat. Many cyclists do. That’s a fact, Jack, at many many levels of the sport. The deeper you go down the rabbit hole of pro cycling, the more you learn about it, the more you’ll find doping everywhere.

  4. Tom , welcome to DC . Were pure humor here ! We keep it real ! You know and I know that DHEA is a MASKING AGENT ! Its over the counter and is an easy cop out when you get busted with it in your system . It is hard to believe that if a case makes it this far ,as yours clearly does , that there is no merit behind it . Were all wondering .Remember , there is sugar in kool aid !

  5. It is okay and correct to be very skeptical.

    The prior antics of the pro cycling establishment are responsible for that response.

    (and as vontz pointed out, masters and amateurs also)

  6. We would all like to think that these Cyclist are clean epically when raising young cyclist.

    But to be at that level and to take anything that you not 100% sure of what is in it is as stupid as taking dope to start with. Always easy to blame something else or to just Hack in to a labs Computer.

  7. So it’s ok to be a dumbass as long as you’re not a cheat? Most of us have jobs we might get fired from if we fuck up. It doesn’t matter if we meant to do it or we’re just incompetent. And a lot of us don’t get the benefit of a B sample either. The end result’s the same. Pack your bags Tommy boy. You just gambled your career on 4:1 odds and lost. It’s happened to better than you.

  8. As a Sports Medicine Physician, I find his excuse highly dubious. As a huge cycling fan I wanna beleieve this guy. First off Kudos to youTom for having the guts to email the site, I do think that shows a level of character not seen very often. Now lets talk about a little science. The evidence for all of these recovery/protein supplements is highly suspect. In other words there are NO double blinded, randomized, placebo controlled studies that support the use of any nutritional supplements that I know of and I have looked for them (but not recently). I’m talking about real science not the stuff they report on their web pages and in their handouts we get in the shwag bags. Chocolate Milk and plain old gatorade outdid some of these recovery aids in a pear reviewed study a few years ago. So the benefits of taking these supplements is very limited. The RISKS however appear to be enormous as Tom has now found out. My advice to any athlete I have ever dealt with who could find themselves peeing in a cup is not to use any of this stuff. It truely could be contaminated OR it could be that Tom got busted with a masking agent. The only one who knows the answer to that question is Tom. I really do wish the best for him no matter what he does with the rest of his life we all make mistakes. The question here is was this innocence, stupidity or cheating? Jeff Rasch D.O.

  9. Yep, that was my article originally posted Zirbel, you got busted, and your excuses sound amazingly like every other guy who has ever been busted, and your chances of proving your “innocence” I’m going with slim, and none unfortunately. Why would you take DHEA when it really provides no benefit? Don’t know, but as others have said, it’s also used as a masking agent for other things that MAY work. Which end are you on?

    Also, I’ve been a bike racer for a long time. I’ve seen doping at the amateur level, with people that I rode against locally, and someone from my own team got busted as well, he maintained his innocence as well, just like most guys who get busted.

    Am I pessimistic about the sport of cycling? No, not really. But I’ve seen enough doping positives over the years to realize that probably a majority of pro cyclists are doping in some way, or another. For example, we keep seeing guys getting busted year in, and year out. I still LOVE the sport of cycling, and support it in any way or shape that I can, as in, working at my local races, mentoring juniors when I can, putting on races, and supporting my club as much as I can.

    Are you guilty Mr. Zirbel? Possibly, the testing certainly shows that you are. Your excuse of tainted supplements is BS as well, since as a pro athlete, you, and only YOU are responsible for what goes into your body, and saying something was tainted is a cop out. Because like I said, you are the one responsible, and sir, sorry, but you fucked up.

  10. The DC crowd is a bunch of wanted to be pros, including myself. Whining about drugs gives justification for why we all never made it. Plus it’s entertaining as hell to be the tough guys throwing shit at someone. Plus plus, most here are OK with alcohol right? Throw a little alcohol on board and every wanted to be pro will whine at their best. Alcohol
    is actually the best whiner performance enhancer. These are the dynamics you’re dealing with here Tom. It amazes me that so many readers of a site based on drugs(alcohol) and riding are such prudes. Broadly speaking, drugs are FUN. That’s why we take them, it’s fun to think I might go a hair faster after I do….

  11. I am a bum cat 1. I was at the store yesterday looking at “supplements” for recovery. Because I dont have a smart phone, I texted myself the brands that they have, went home and googled their cleanliness because I know I will be tested a single time this year. Why then, if your current and future depend on clean tests, would Zirbel not do the same? If he really is innocent, then he is living out a form of hell. If he is guilty and still playing this game, it just reaffirms that he would have cheated in the first place.

  12. This 18% contamination rate stinks. Since synthesis of molecules / substances is not 100% efficient – f.e. making aspirin is a simple reaction but you’ll always end up with some reaction side-products that you’ll have to get rid of.
    All those supplements have to have some biological activity, otherwise there would be not point in taking them. Biological activity depends on the structure of a molecule ( drug / supplement ). If it resembles DHEA, I would not be surprised if one might end up with considerable amounts of DHEA during the production process that has to be removed. Hence the contamination.
    This is one possible explanation, I might be wrong of course.
    I just find it pitiful when a pro cyclist says ” Hey, I wasn’t doping! Somehow the not-yet-on-the-banned-drugs-list supplement was contaminated by DHEA”.

  13. Oh boy, this is a slippery slope. I don’t want to get sucked into these back and forth arguments anymore than I have already. But here we go:
    you say that you’re not pessimistic but that you believe the majority of pro cyclists are on the juice? Really? So who is it? Everyone who ever beat you in a race and other performances that you deem worthy of the “doped” tag? And I keep hearing this ‘masking agent’ label thrown around. How is it a masking agent and for what? Nandrolone, testosterone or what? They either have different metabolites or can be tested for with T/E ratio as far as I know. It doesn’t seem like a very effective masking agent. And why would I be taking steroids for the USPro TT anyway? Aren’t anabolics taken for faster recovery? So was I doping so that I would recover for the USPro RR the next day? Maybe I wanted to get dropped on Paris Mountain on lap 4 instead of lap 3 so it was worth it for me to risk my career?
    Gatorade is a supplement. I know someone who tested positive for nandrolone and proved it was from a supplement that supposedly contained only electrolytes.
    the nature of contamination is that it’s NOT ON THE LABEL.
    And so how would all of you peeps handle yourself in this situation? Say that you were a high profile athlete who tested positive for something that you didn’t do. Would you stay silent? Silence = guilt. Would you deny it? Careful, you sound guilty when you deny something. Would you say “I don’t know how this happened”? Wow, what a lame excuse – we’ve heard that before. That sounds guilty. Or would you just admit it because obviously ALL doping positives = CHEATER. Of course, that’s the only option. Never mind the handful of doping cases where suspensions were reduced because it was proven that the substance got into their body without their knowing. That’s an inconvenient truth. Just ignore it.
    This concludes my membership to the Internet Warriors Club.

  14. notice zirble ain’t got shit on snakehawk. that’s ’cause i keep it greasy, vague and sassy.

    i am the sassiest bitch in this piece.

    lunch break is over. hope the sandwich my buddy gave me is really a sandwich…..

  15. Interesting stuff here. Hope this keeps going a while before it degrades into the usual shit show.

  16. Well, Tom’s wrong about one thing – balance presented with regards to doping on this website. I’ve seen it here for the past, oh, 5 or so years I’ve been checking in. It only takes a whiff of a doping allegation before the chorus bleats a responsory chant.

    Well, ok, Tom didn’t say he was looking for balance, but extremes. Sadly, there is but one extreme he can expect here. Now, in Toms case, people like me who wish to afford the benefit of the doubt as well as follow jurisprudence/habeas corpus don’t really have much to go on. You failed the A and B sample. Essentially, even if you can prove ignorance, you’re fucked. Contrast that with Armstrong, whom it seems every contributor to this blog has convicted with nary a positive result.

    In other words Tom, you don’t stand a chance here. Even if you do manage to prove surreptitious contamination, and even _if_ that info gets published here, the ‘brain trust’ at Drunk cyclist by and large will dismiss your pleas and evidence with yet another bleating ‘dopers suck’ chorus.

    I wish you the best of luck, Tom. I don’t want to believe you intentionally doped, and I sincerely hope you can prove that. But, in the jaded h8ting world of DC, you are now and will always be sleazy low-life greedy doping piece of shit.

    p.s. landshark, ‘pear’ reviewed?

  17. no doubt. since when are pears such smarty pantses? i was thinking that, too. once a friend gave me a pear to eat, or at least he told me it was a pear.

  18. Mr. Zirbel:

    If you have knowledge one of the supplements you consumed was adulterated, you’ve got an outstanding lawsuit against the manufacturer, marketer, and retailer that sold it to you for a host of claims, not the least of which battery. Heaven help the sellers if the chain of commerce traversed California.

    It’s an all to convenient excuse to blame dietary supplements as a category. As in any other market niche, there are good players and there are bad players. Anyone who purchases a product from a marketer that also sells a pro-hormone product is asking for trouble. You won’t expose yourself to that kind of risk buying from any of the publicly traded supplement houses.

  19. We know the drill here at DC . We call it the shit show . We hang ’em high
    at DC .

  20. Tom raises a few good points I had on my mind as well.

    Collectively, we the DC crowd tend to go with the metality that where there is smoke there is fire. Not without good reason I think.

    Pessimism – nobody touted Zirbel as a doper, until the positives, then it was the usual. I think the majority here believe there isa lot of doping in the pro peleton, and at the highest level, there is certainly a lot of evidence to support that. So maybe a combo of pessimism based on reality? What is the ratio of doping positives vs. not-guilty verdicts?

    Now in defense of Tom, I would not be too quick to dismiss the idea of contamination. It sure makes a great bailout excuse but…

    An FDA environment should be of the highest quality/oversite/regulation. If you have worked in one, then for sure you understand that contamination is no myth. If not, think of the recalls you have seen. e-coli etc. Contamination certainly can happen. Especially where multiple compounds are mixed and packaged. You would like to believe that after one batch of miracle cure is mixed on some equipment it is thoroughly cleaned and sanitized before the next round of wonder drug is processed. Under FDA regulations, it should be. as we all know, what SHOULD be and what ACTUALLY HAPPENS are not always harmonized. People get lazy. machine operators don’t give a shit. faster to do one rinse than three…etc. There are generally a lot of checks to try and minimize the risks, but shit still gets through.

    Now take away the oversight of the FDA, as is the case with our multi-billion dollar supplement industry, add in raw materials which are sourced from sometimes questionable suppliers (like melamine in pet food from china), throw in the potential for good old fashioned profit motivated greed and you have a good potential for contamination.

    As an athlete it would be impossible to completely eliminate the potential for contamination. We all deal with it with everything we eat, most of us just aren’t tested for it. Short of growing the shit yourself you can’t do much to completely eliminate the risk.

    So, while being pessimistic, I’ll at least promise you this Tom Z. (and the others to follow), I’ll keep an open mind, try and collect the facts and base my (ultimately meaningless) personal decision on guilt once the facts have all been put down. I still believe in innocent until proven guilty, but I also have my predjudices. And I doubt that contamination will be proved, even if that is what truly happened. Too long ago and without the actual supplement, how do you know?

    Now back to the Terrible ale. this is some good tasty dark ale.

  21. Dear Tom,

    We love bikes. You should see some of the AZT.
    I was never a racer. I don’t know shit about doping.
    You seem like an OK guy with some valid points.
    Hope it all works out.