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Traces of clenbuterol found in Spaniard's urine, Contador blames food contamination...

Alberto Contador, who in July won the Tour de France for the third time, has been provisionally suspended after testing positive for the banned substance, clenbuterol following a drugs test during this year’s race. The B sample taking from the Astana rider at the same time has confirmed the result. The cyclist, who was made aware of the result on 24 August, denies doping and claims the presence of the substance is due to food contamination.

The banned drug, whose prescription uses include acting as a decongestant for sufferers of asthama and other conditions, helps with aerobic performance and boosts the blood’s capacity to carry oxygen. It also causes fat to be metabolized more quickly, and is widely used to help with weight loss.

News of Contador’s failed test was communicated this morning in a statement by cycling’s governing body, the UCI, and is bound to cast a huge shadow over the world championships currently taking place in Australia. The UCI says that the amount of clenbuterol found in the Spaniard’s urine samples taken on the second rest day of the race is “very small” estimated at 50 picograms (or 0,000 000 000 05 grams per ml) and that further investigation is required. According to a later UCI statement "this concentration is 400 time less than what the antidoping laboratories accredited by WADA must be able to detect". However WADA officials have also made it clear that there is no minimum threshold for a positive test.

It added that it “continues working with the scientific support of WADA [the World Anti-doping Agency] to analyse all the elements that are relevant to the case. This further investigation may take some more time.”

In a statement released by his publicist Jacinto Vidarte and reported by The Associated Press, the 27-year-old, who has won the Tour de France in three out of the last four years, missing the race in 2008 when he rode and won both the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta instead, claimed that the only explanation for the presence of the substance in his urine was food contamination.

"The experts consulted so far have agreed also that this is a food contamination case, especially considering the number of tests passed by Alberto Contador during the Tour de France," said the statement, "making it possible to define precisely both the time the emergence of the substance as the tiny amount detected, ruling out any other source or intentionality."

David Howman, WADA’s director general, told The Associated Press that even the tiniest amount of clenbuterol could lead to action being taken against an athlete, although he was unable to talk about the particular aspects of Contador’s situation.

"The issue is the lab has detected this,” Howman said. “They have the responsibility for pursuing. There is no such thing as a limit where you don't have to prosecute cases. This is not a substance that has a threshold," he continued.

"Once the lab records an adverse finding, it's an adverse finding and it has to be followed up.

"Clenbuterol is a substance that has been used for over 20 to 30 years," Howman continued. "It is not anything new. Nobody has ever suggested it is something you can take inadvertently."

Contador is widely considered to be the most complete rider in the world at the moment and, given his age, one with the potential to dominate the sport for years to come.

He is due to join Bjarne Riis’s Team Sungard-Saxo Bank for the 2011 season. Ironically, should it result that Contador is banned and stripped of this year’s Tour de France title, that would pass to outgoing Saxo Bank rider Andy Schleck, who finished the race 38 seconds behind him, and who is joining the new Luxembourg-based team currently being set up.

Given that Contador was advised of the result of the test more than a month ago, the timing of the UCI's statement, coming as it does in the middle of the World Championships in which the rider is not competing, is a curious one. The Spaniard is due to hold a press conference later today and of course we will bring you news of that plus other reaction as soon as we have it.
 

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

19 comments

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Old Cranky [257 posts] 5 years ago
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Micro dosing??

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Hamster [95 posts] 5 years ago
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Marginal gains taken to extremes?

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Jon Burrage [998 posts] 5 years ago
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hmm - I know its a marginal thing but I feel a little vindicated in my doubting of contador. I wasnt the only one on the tourmalet who had ill feeling toward him, others were clearly vocal about what they thought he had done in the past.

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antonio [1119 posts] 5 years ago
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'Food contamination' I usually say 'must be something I ate' when I get the runs.

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STATO [497 posts] 5 years ago
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Jon Burrage wrote:

hmm - I know its a marginal thing but I feel a little vindicated in my doubting of contador. I wasnt the only one on the tourmalet who had ill feeling toward him, others were clearly vocal about what they thought he had done in the past.

No such thing as innocent until proven guilty in cycling, string him up, raid his house and give all his trophys to the Schlecks, even the ones he won at school sports days. And then when the Schlecks get found out for doping, give all the trophys to Lance.

Infact why do we have all these anti-doping tests, just let the fans vote on who is using them, afteral they apparently can tell.

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dave atkinson [6207 posts] 5 years ago
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The wiki page on clenbuterol (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clenbuterol) mentions cases of food contamination, and the cached page on bing suggests that information was there before today, so it hasn't just been added by Bertie's PR machine this morning. Although since they've apparently known for ages, it could have been added at another time to support his case. Can't trust the internet  1

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dave atkinson [6207 posts] 5 years ago
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apart from this site, of course

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Jon Burrage [998 posts] 5 years ago
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STATO wrote:
Jon Burrage wrote:

hmm - I know its a marginal thing but I feel a little vindicated in my doubting of contador. I wasnt the only one on the tourmalet who had ill feeling toward him, others were clearly vocal about what they thought he had done in the past.

No such thing as innocent until proven guilty in cycling, string him up, raid his house and give all his trophys to the Schlecks, even the ones he won at school sports days. And then when the Schlecks get found out for doping, give all the trophys to Lance.

Infact why do we have all these anti-doping tests, just let the fans vote on who is using them, afteral they apparently can tell.

Fair enough - it could well be a case of food contamination from what I read but there are questions about his past (puerto etc) as there are with others such as Lance Armstrong who people are very willing to point the finger at.

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Tony Farrelly [2868 posts] 5 years ago
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re the food contamination info on Wikipedia, those cases do seem to be confined to China and to people eating pork - although I suppose those cases were of people made ill by the contamination which would suggest it was a much larger dose. Wonder where Alberto gets his jamon iberico from?

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mrchrispy [444 posts] 5 years ago
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you know you can look at the revision history on a wiki?
food contamination was first mentioned back in March 2007

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Old Cranky [257 posts] 5 years ago
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If it was food contamination then surely the whole team would have it??

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giff77 [1232 posts] 5 years ago
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Thought that the team chef would have been more careful on the 'sourcing' of food! And the whole team would be positive if food contamination! I am assuming that this is a substance that the EU doesn't allow into the foodchain. The defence is looking decidedly wafer thin!!

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simonmb [353 posts] 5 years ago
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Anyone know where I can get hold of a pack of clenbuternol? I called Bertie but his cellphone's off.

It does seem like a bizarrely small amount was detected - although as stated there is no threshold of tolerance for this substance. I must confess to not being a big fan of the guy, and no one deserves any favours in a situation like this - but I'd like to see him given a fair forum for an explanation. He's giving a press conference around now I think?

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dave atkinson [6207 posts] 5 years ago
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mrchrispy wrote:

you know you can look at the revision history on a wiki?
food contamination was first mentioned back in March 2007

doh! forgot about that.

which brings to mind another scenario: bertie's pr chaps desperately trawling the clenbuterol wiki page looking for a getout clause  1

it's interesting that there is no minimum dose for some banned substances. presumably there *is* a minimum dose at which clenbuterol doping has any effect, and presumably the drug's trace decay in the human body is well documented, and presumably Bertie's last (negative, presumably) test was logged. So given those figures, presumably we can deduce whether it was possible that he ever had active levels of clenbuterol in his system? or, at least, it's possible to rule it out.

that's a lot of presumablies  1

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giff77 [1232 posts] 5 years ago
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And anyway, why does the UCI wait for the world championships to break this news? Are they wanting maximum expusure that they are dealing with doping? I suppose the TdeF passed by too quietly apart from motorgate!!!

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atlaz [180 posts] 5 years ago
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A wikipedia article says "a lack of knowledge of the source of the substance ingested is not considered to be a defence against a positive result". Surely that means that Andy gets the TdF and Alberto gets a couple of years of training ahead of him?

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crunch61 [31 posts] 5 years ago
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Cycling was my favourite sport for many years, right from when I was a kid in the 70's, but it has to be said that I for one, very much doubt I'll bother watching much, if any cycling anymore.  102
There are way too many arseholes that have either been done for doping, and let back in to compete, with no remorse, to the current situation with Contador, and his guilt/innocence hanging in the balance.
It makes me  31

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jova54 [649 posts] 5 years ago
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Quote:

If it was food contamination then surely the whole team would have it??

According to Bertie's press conference, see other thread, the only other team member tested at the same time was Vino and he hadn't eaten the same food.

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wild man [297 posts] 5 years ago
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A Spanish shot putter tried the same contaminated meat excuse probably ten years back. It didn't work.