The Latest on the Doping Front

News from Italy:

The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) announced that the examination of Italian cyclocross rider Vania Rossi’s B sample has returned a negative result for EPO-CERA.

CONI released the news on its website on Friday with the statement, “In the B sample analysis for Vania Rossi, conducted in the period from March 29 to April 2, 2010, the minimum levels of CERA required to meet the World Anti-doping Agency’s (WADA) criteria have not been found.”

Rossi, 26, tested positive for CERA in a doping control conducted at the Italian cyclocross national championships on January 10. The original test, carried out by CONI, satisfied WADA’s criteria for a positive result, and Rossi was provisionally suspended from competition on January 29.

Rossi, the 2007 and 2008 Italian national cyclocross champion, has continued to maintain her innocence since the announcement of her A sample positive.

CONI confirmed that the results of both the A and B sample analyses had been verified by the WADA-approved laboratory in Chatenay-Malabry, France. CONI’s prosecutor will re-examine the case before deciding what further action can be taken.

At the time of the competition and test, Rossi was the partner of Riccardo Riccò, and she is the mother of his son. Riccò was thrown out of the 2008 Tour de France after a positive doping test for EPO-CERA. He has since served his suspension and returned to competition.

via Rossi’s B Sample Negative For CERA |

Looks like Vania Rossi might have to actually be cleared (although, I’m sure she’ll end up on WADA & CONI’s targeted list for additional testing). I can’t imagine that CONI will still try to have her suspended when the B-sample does not “confirm” the A-sample. If so, then I predict a long, drawn-out appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

I do find it interesting that the announced results of the B-sample do not say that CERA wasn’t found, but that “the minimum levels … have not been found.” In legal terms, this would not be a finding of innocence, but reasonable doubt of guilt.

Meanwhile, back in the United States:

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has announced that Tom Zirbel has accepted a two-year suspension for testing positive for a testosterone precursor at the national championships last August.

The 31-year-old Zirbel has also been stripped of results and prizes won in events in which he participated since he provided a urine sample that showed a positive result for DHEA on August 29. Zirbel finished second to Dave Zabriskie for the second consecutive year at the national time trial championship and then went on to finish fourth at the worlds time trial in Switzerland.

According to USADA, Zirbel tested positive for “testosterone or its precursors.” He accepted a provisional suspension on November 17, the date which marks the beginning of his period of ineligibility.

In his blog on Friday, Zirbel wrote that he accepted the sanction in order to “gain a little credibility with USADA” but indicated he still didn’t know how the positive result came about.

“Even when my friends and family know that I am not a cheat, it still hurts to write this and it really hurt to send that fax today,” he wrote.

“Nothing has really changed: I will still continue to have testing done to try and figure out how this all happened in the first place and I still won’t be racing.”

via – Zirbel accepts a two-year suspension.

I’m sure I’m not the only one that finds it cruelly ironic that a man who would have had to have passed Team Garmin-Transition’s super-strict anti-doping tests prior to signing his contract; a man who wanted to return prize money he received after one of his Team Bissell teammates (Kirk O’Bee) tested positive last year.

I understand that athletes are 100% responsible for any and all substances they ingest. I understand that athletes’ bodies generally cannot recover from the stresses and demands placed on them without legitimate use of supplements.

But when the only feasible method an athlete has to determine if a particular supplement is “legitimate” or not is by reading the labels, I find it ludicrous that the supplement/nutriceutical industry is not regulated in the same way that both the food and pharmaceutical industries are. When a supplement manufacturer gets it wrong, whether through negligence or otherwise, it is the athlete that suffers.

I would like to more government regulation of the nutriceutical industry to help prevent contamination in the first place. I would like to see some sort of certification program established wherein supplements are tested and certified to be contaminant-free. If an athlete tests positive for a banned substance, and it can be shown that the positive test is because of a certified (but yet still contaminated) supplement, then not only would I like that to be an acceptable and valid defense of a positive test, but I would also like for the supplement manufacturer be held legally and financially responsible for loss of income and damage to reputation related to the positive test.

And maybe then, the nutriceutical industry will cease being the haven of many get-rich-quick multi-level marketing schemers.

I have no delusions that this will clean-up cycling’s reputation for doping, but it should help prevent or reduce the number of athletes in all sports who bust their asses to try to earn a clean and honest living from having to go through what Zirbel is experiencing now.