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On Tuesday, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced that the American Arbitration Panel had granted a motion to postpone the arbitration hearing for Tom Danielson, who returned an adverse finding for “an anabolic agent” in a sample provided on July 9, 2015.
Danielson’s counsel requested the postponement in order to conduct further analysis of supplements he was using at the time of sample collection. He will remain provisionally suspended, and the hearing originally scheduled for June will move to a yet-to-be-determined date in the fall.
None of this was news to Danielson, who claims he has spent nearly a full year trying to determine how a banned substance entered his bloodstream since learning of it on August 2, while at the Tour of Utah, where he was prepared to defend his 2014 title.
It’s a difficult defense to establish, scientifically, in front of an arbitration panel, and politically, in the court of public opinion — Danielson served a six-month ban from September 1, 2012, to March 1, 2013, after admitting to blood doping while with the Discovery Channel team from 2005 through 2007.
Danielson rode with the Slipstream Sports organization from 2008 through 2015, wearing Garmin and Cannondale logos.
Asked for comment about the postponement, Danielson declined to answer questions, but instead issued a statement to CyclingTips, claiming that his test result is consistent with ingesting DHEA due to supplement contamination.
In his statement, Danielson also acknowledged that under WADA Code, athletes are held to the principle of strict liability — each athlete is strictly liable for the substances found in his or her body, and that an anti-doping rule violation occurs whenever a prohibited substance (or its metabolites or markers) is found, whether or not the athlete intentionally or unintentionally used a prohibited substance or was negligent or otherwise at fault.
Still, Danielson said, he asked the arbitration panel for more time in order to investigate the supplement — which he did not name — to learn if a banned substance may have been intentionally put into a supplement that he had taken for years without issue.
Asked if this was a supplement provided by Slipstream Sports, or if the team was aware of supplements Danielson was taking, a spokesperson for Slipstream Sports declined comment, saying that it was “not part of the process at all, and therefore cannot comment.”
The Cannondale team is sponsored by Informed-Sport, a quality assurance program for sports nutrition products, suppliers to the sports nutrition industry, and supplement-manufacturing facilities. According to the Cannondale team web site, the quality assurance program “certifies that all nutritional supplements and/or ingredients that bear the Informed-Sport logo have been tested for banned substances by the world class sports anti-doping laboratory, LGC.”
Because this is his second anti-doping violation, Danielson faces a lifetime ban. Due to his age, 38, even if Danielson is able to prove accidental ingestion, he will almost certainly face a suspension of some length, meaning that his professional career is effectively over.
Danielson’s full statement, below.
With today’s announcement from USADA on the postponement of my arbitration hearing, I feel like now is a good time to update you with where I am with my case.
Before I give you my current status, I would like to state I am firmly against any and all doping in sport. I wrongly went down that path many years ago, using bad judgment on my part. I paid dearly for it both physically and mentally which led me to stop this behavior and take a strong stance against it.
I joined Slipstream Sports in 2008, an organization created on the backbone of clean sport, as one of their first members with the motive of creating a team to fight against doping. Since the team’s creation, I have actively promoted and participated in ethical and clean sport.
I have also openly spoken about my past mistakes to assist WADA, USADA, and the sport of cycling in learning from the past to help make a cleaner present.
Since 2008 I have cooperated with all anti-doping authorities, have not taken any banned substances, and have not missed a single anti-doping test. I have also done what I thought was my due diligence in researching the supplements I take to make sure they are free from all banned substances.
Expert analysis of my Carbon Isotope Ratio test shows that my positive test is consistent with ingestion of DHEA, consistent with supplement contamination, and is classified as “unintentional ingestion” (an amount so small it would be nearly impossible to intentionally ingest and clearly would have no benefit as well).
The expert analysis of my test result also shows that small amount of this banned substance in my system was early in the metabolism process. The sample I gave on July 9th was at 7pm, shortly after I finished dinner and had taken my dietary supplement (as I took with meals for better absorption and digestion). This timing is consistent with the test result findings.
After thoroughly investigating all possible avenues and countless tests, we have identified the likely cause of my positive test as a dietary supplement I have taken for many years without issue. I take full responsibility for ingesting this supplement as the WADA rules are very clear — every athlete is responsible for what goes in his or her body. I prefer to keep the supplement name and manufacturer private during this time.
Before I present the evidence and facts of my case to USADA, I am asking for additional time to conduct further investigation into this supplement, as there are still some questions that need to be answered. The biggest question: Did this company intentionally put the banned substance in the supplement to make it work better, or was it simply contamination? Right now there is evidence that points to both possibilities.
While I am taking full responsibility for this supplement going into my body, finding the full answer is important to me. I want others to be able to learn from this mishap to avoid it happening to them in the future. WADA rules very are clear, I was responsible for what went into my body, no matter what.
I wish now I had done this much research into my supplements before taking them, not just because of this test result, and the damage it’s done to my career and my reputation, but also because of the potential damage I may have done to my body by ingesting this substance. With the additional information I hope to obtain over the next months, I hope to be able to share with others, to accurately educate them on the dangers of supplement use.
This post has been updated.