Science - May 1, 2013

Doping offenders ate contaminated meat

Clenbuterol in meat may have been responsible for positive doping tests.
'Illegal use of clenbuterol must be tackled.'

Was alleged doping offender Alberto Contador a victim of contaminated meat?
A study, commissioned by FIFA and conducted by Wageningen UR research institute Rikilt, has found that the illegal use of clenbuterol in animal farming may have influenced the results of doping tests in various sports. The Rikilt study investigated meat and food samples from Mexican hotels in which football teams stayed during the 2011 U-17 FIFA World Cup. Clenbuterol, a growth-promoting drug, was found in almost one third of the samples. Meanwhile, a doping lab in Cologne, working in collaboration with Rikilt, tested urine samples collected from footballers who stayed at the Mexican hotels. Over a third of these also proved to contain clenbuterol.
Only in 5 of the 24 participating teams did no clenbuterol at all show up. At least one of these teams had been put on a vegetarian diet, following a Mexican government warning about contaminated meat. The warning came after players in the Mexican national team had tested positive for clenbuterol earlier in 2011. It was also common knowledge that Mexican farmers regularly made use of illegal growth stimulants.
Rikilt's research shows that meat containing clenbuterol can cause big problems for elite athletes who are subject to anti-doping screening systems. There is an urgent need for government measures to combat the illegal usage of clenbuterol in animal farming, claims the institute.
Contador
Rikilt is also looking into the alleged doping use by Alberto Contador who, in 2010, was found to have 0.00000000005 g/mL of clenbuterol in his blood. Contador's defence claimed it must have been ingested inadvertently through contaminated meat. Rikilt, commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, is now attempting to determine whether the clenbuterol in Contador's blood stemmed from a doping pill or a steak. To achieve this, the institute is developing a new technique which can differentiate the two optical isomers of clenbuterol. Both types occur in equal quantities in pills, but steak contains primarily the active variant. Rikilt hopes to have conclusive evidence by the end of the year to determine whether or not Contador was a victim of contaminated meat. 

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