Updated: Fourteen months later, USADA hands Tom Danielson four-year sanction

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This story has been updated since its initial publication, with a statement from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, disputing Tom Danielson’s claim that he was given a reduced sentence for a tainted supplement, as well as information from Danielson that his case was not heard before an arbitration panel. The original headline has been edited to to reflect this.


Fourteen months after he was first notified of an anti-doping violation, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has handed Tom Danielson a four-year sanction — a reduced sanction, Danielson said in a statement, because USADA accepted that he had taken a contaminated supplement.

USADA, however, disputed that claim.

“The basis for this reduced ban is unintentional ingestion of DHEA as the result of contamination from a supplement containing Maca root,” Danielson wrote in a statement, provided to CyclingTips. “The manufacturer of this Maca root product also produces a supplement containing DHEA, in the same facility, and this is likely how the contamination occurred.”

Danielson issued the statement but declined an interview request, and declined to answer any questions regarding the manufacturer of the product, where he obtained it, or how he obtained it.

In an emailed statement, provided by USADA spokesperson Ryan Madden, the agency disputed Danielson’s claim that he had received a reduced sanction due to proof that he had inadvertently ingested a contaminated supplement.

“At no point during USADA’s investigation were we presented with scientific evidence suggesting that Mr. Danielson’s positive test resulted from a contaminated product. The potential sanction length for this case ranged from six months to eight years, depending upon mitigating circumstances. Had Mr. Danielson been able to prove that his positive test resulted from a contaminated product, then a sanction length of less than four years could have been considered.”

The 2015 anti-doping violation was Danielson’s second; he 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. A second offense can bring a period of ineligibility of up to eight years, or even a lifetime ban, depending on the offense.

In an earlier statement, USADA wrote that Danielson tested positive “as a result of an out-of-competition urine sample he provided on July 9, 2015, for the presence of an exogenous Androgenic Anabolic Steroid (AAS) and/or its metabolites, which was confirmed by Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (IRMS) analysis.” The statement included no mention of a reduced sentence, or a tainted supplement.

Danielson’s four-year period of ineligibility began on August 3, 2015, the date his provisional suspension was imposed. Danielson, who is 38, will be ineligible to compete until August 3, 2019, when he will be 41. He has also been disqualified from all competitive results obtained on and subsequent to July 9, 2015, the date his positive sample was collected.

In June, the American Arbitration Panel granted a motion to postpone Danielson’s hearing in order to conduct further analysis of supplements he was using at the time of sample collection.

Danielson told CyclingTips that his case ultimately was not heard before an arbitration panel.

In his statement, Danielson says he has spent the past 14 months trying to determine how DHEA entered his bloodstream since learning of it at the 2015 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, where he was prepared to defend his 2014 title.

“Any money I have spent on this case has only been used on research, not as a defense strategy — WADA rules for cases like mine are based on ‘strict liability’ and I must accept the punishment, despite unintentionally consuming a prohibited substance,” Danielson wrote. “The reason I invested countless months into determining the cause of this positive test was solely to help me find closure.”

Danielson rode with the Slipstream Sports organization from 2008 through 2015, wearing Garmin and Cannondale logos.

Asked in June 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 team had no further comment on Thursday after news of Danielson’s four-year sanction.

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.”

Danielson’s full statement, below.


Today, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has agreed to issue me a reduced ban of four years, instead of the standard eight years for a second anti-doping violation, for my positive test on July 9, 2015. The basis for this reduced ban is unintentional ingestion of DHEA as the result of contamination from a supplement containing Maca root. The manufacturer of this Maca root product also produces a supplement containing DHEA, in the same facility, and this is likely how the contamination occurred.

First, I would like to thank everyone for their patience and support over the past 14 months. It has been a testing experience and one that has ultimately shaped me as a human being for the better.

Second, I would like to restate that I am firmly against doping in sport. I wrongly went down that path many years ago, which I have acknowledged was 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 foundation of clean sport, as one of its first members with the belief that we could create a clean team, staunch in its stance against doping. Since the beginning of the team’s creation, I have actively promoted and participated in ethical and clean sport. I was with this team until my career ended, unexpectedly, on August 3, 2015, when I was informed of my anti-doping violation.

Since then, I have spent countless hours, and a significant amount of money, to find out what happened. Any money I have spent on this case has only been used on research, not as a defense strategy — WADA rules for cases like mine are based on “strict liability” and I must accept the punishment, despite unintentionally consuming a prohibited substance. The reason I invested countless months into determining the cause of this positive test was solely to help me find closure. Since August 3, 2015, I have been torn apart inside, and I needed the answer to help me with the healing process.

For the past 14 months I have felt beaten and battered, dragged through the mud, and scarred internally. Some of this I deserved, due to my mistakes in the past, and some of this I didn’t. The reality is that life can be harsh at times. Along my journey, several people reached out to me and shared injustices, and life-changing experiences, that were on a much larger scale. This helped me realize how small all of this is in the big picture. With all of those inspirational stories, I am choosing to use the reality that life can be harsh and unfair to become a stronger, better version of myself.

From this day on, I hope to change people’s lives in a different way than I have previously. I hope that my story and actions, moving forward, can inspire people to reinvent themselves. I’m currently taking this approach in my work with recreational cyclists. No matter how many scars a person may have, no matter how damaged they are, no matter what people say about them, and no matter how impossible life seems, I hope I can, somehow, help them use all of it to become a better version of themselves — to reinvent themselves, through cycling.

Thank you for your understanding, and for all the cheering out on the road all those years. I look forward to riding a different path with you all for this next chapter.

Sincerely,
Tom Danielson

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