Eating clenbuterol tainted meat can lead to failed blood tests says German study, but…

Spanish livestock producers ask Contador where's the beef?

by Tony Farrelly   February 17, 2011  

Steaks courtesy http://pdphoto.org/

Eating meat contaminated with clenbuterol can lead to a positive blood test. So says a study conducted by a WADA accredited lab in Germany and released this week, findings that go some way to backing up Alberto Contador's claim to have accidentally ingested clenbuterol when he ate a contaminated steak at last year's Tour de France. Contador was controversially cleared of doping by his national federation this week on the grounds that it believed his story of involuntary ingestion.

The German Sport University Cologne (ironically the lab that tested Contador's samples from last year's Tour de France) tested 28 travellers returning from China over a four month period from 15th September last year to the 15th of January this year. 22 of the 28 tested positive for low levels of clenbuterol in their blood streams leading the lab to warn athletes of the dangers of eating meat while in China.

In a statement issued to accompany the report the lab attributed their findings to illegal farming practices which are known to be widespread in China where meat is a luxury foodstuff and commands high prices. Clenbuterol can be used to promote lean muscle growth in livestock but the resulting meat can be tainted with the drug.

In recent years numerous Chinese athletes have tested positive for the substance, most notably the RadioShack cyclist Fuyu Li who received a two year ban for testing positive for clenbuterol, which in humans helps burn fat and can boost aerobic capacity. The rider has loudly proclaimed his innocence and the Chinese national cycling federation had already indicated they would look at his case again in light of the proposed one year ban that RFEC initially said it would impose on Contador.

The fact that Contador was subsequently cleared had already strengthened Li's case to have his own ban cut or even overturned - the German study will only strengthen his hand further. Another rider sure to be taking a keen interest is the Dane Philip Nielsen who failed a test for Clenbuterol at the Tour of Mexico last year – another country known to have a problem with illegal use of the drug by livestock farmers.

While Alberto Contador and his advisers will no doubt see the German study as further vindicating their case others are likely to be more sceptical. While Nielsen and Li had both visited and eaten meat in countries with known problems with clenbuterol tainted meat, Contador had not.

His claim that he ate a steak brought across the Spanish border to his hotel in France that turned out to be tainted with the drug has yet to be backed up with any hard evidence. The receipt for the meat was eventually produced, but no trail back to a smoking farm gate has ever been uncovered – something his detractors point out should not be too hard to uncover. A German table tennis star who was also recently cleared of doping when his federation believed his story about contaminated meat eaten in China was able to supply proof about the meat, something that should be much easier to do in the EU where all points of the food chain are much more heavily monitored and regulated.

That point was forcibly made today by the association of Spanish livestock farmers, Asoprovac which noted, in an uncanny echo of statements so often made in the cycling world, that in 2010 the authorities carried out 14,179 controls and none found any traces of clenbuterol - even so as we reported last year a livestock doping ring was broken up by the Spanish authorities in the Canary Islands, bulking up beef cattle was only part of their activities which are also alleged to have involved doping horse races. Nobody has ever claimed there was a link between this case and the Contador one.

Asoprovac also confirmed that it had seen Contador's defence dossier and took issue with it on a number of points, most notably the assertion that the steak he alleges was to blame came from an animal that had entered the food chain without the usual controls - something Asoprovac point out constitutes both gross professional negligence from the abattoir, the veterinary inspector and the farmer, and a risk to public health which it was surprised Contador's representatives had not alerted the authorities to. The statement ended with the withering accusation that whether Contador was guilty of doping or not he was guilty of trying to clear his image by besmirching the reputation of an industry on which many hundreds of thousands of Spaniards depended for their livelihoods.

And before Alberto Contador gets too excited by the German findings it should be noted that the researchers were unwilling to extrapolate their findings to a sporting scenario. Instead, like academics everywhere, they called for a larger study.

This story is not over yet…

13 user comments

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Time for some serious fact checks. First of all, Astana had the receipt for the steak all along, and it was used as part of the Contador case. He filed a claim, and although we're led to believe the system is perfected to the point where a receipt can be traced back to an animal on a farm, the Basque Government couldn't do it. The meat industry can say these things to protect their reputation because consumers won't check the facts. Do they deny that farmers are arrested in Spain every year for using Clenbuterol? Do they deny that way too few animals are tested for the substance to give any assurance that the meat is safe?
But let's get to the German Study. #1 China has a Clenbuterol problem. #2 China has 1/5 of the World's population. #3 If WADA Labs in China tested all athletes who live in or compete in China for Clenbuterol using Cologne Lab standard equipment, the world of sports would be turned upside down. Add in Mexico and South America where it's legal, and other places where people cheat, and WADA HAS to set a minimum threshold. All the samples from the Beijing Olympics are stored. Test them all in Cologne for Clenbuterol, and see if anyone in any sport gets to keep a medal.
AS.Com has the entire RFEC Resolution in digital form that Google can translate. How many of the people slinging mud at Spain right now did the Due Diligence to read the legal case first?

posted by theswordsman [4 posts]
17th February 2011 - 20:00

9 Likes

Well said 'theswordsman'. But then, why let the facts get in the way of reporting a good story.

And readers (including me) tend to react rather than thinking rationally, so it all works to wind everyone up.

Ticktock

posted by Michael5 [121 posts]
17th February 2011 - 20:20

11 Likes

Quote:
Astana had the receipt for the steak all along

@theswordsman - you're right, that should have read, 'was eventually produced', not 'was lost' - it has been amended. The point remains that it hasn't led to any contaminated meat being uncovered. Who's at fault for that is, as you say, a matter of much debate.

Quote:
why let the facts get in the way of reporting a good story

We've tried to be even-handed throughout this mess, I wouldn't say we've been slinging mud at Spain, Contador, Elfstone or anyone else. Okay, maybe Elfstone.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7472 posts]
17th February 2011 - 21:25

9 Likes

We've looked believe me, all we could find on the RFEC site was their press release bitching about everybody bitching about them. They didn't even publish their own judgement. We looked on the AS site too, we didn't look on El Mundo though here's the blighter http://estaticos.elmundo.es/documentos/2011/02/16/resolucion.pdf

As to the receipt a receipt for steak was found by Astana and handed over to Contador's defence team - in November. As far as I can see it has never been produced in public - perhaps you know better. If so fire away.

They might have a vested interest, but Asoprovac are making a perfectly valid point, if he had eaten steak from a cow that had evaded the normal veterinary controls that was a publish health issue so why was it not reported to the authorities as such?

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4154 posts]
17th February 2011 - 21:54

9 Likes

Said receipt will unlikely be produced in public unless in a court of law as doing so would likely be actionable for a defamation suit.

posted by IHphoto [112 posts]
18th February 2011 - 1:03

11 Likes

theswordsman wrote:
Time for some serious fact checks. First of all, Astana had the receipt for the steak all along, and it was used as part of the Contador case. He filed a claim, and although we're led to believe the system is perfected to the point where a receipt can be traced back to an animal on a farm, the Basque Government couldn't do it. The meat industry can say these things to protect their reputation because consumers won't check the facts. Do they deny that farmers are arrested in Spain every year for using Clenbuterol? Do they deny that way too few animals are tested for the substance to give any assurance that the meat is safe?
But let's get to the German Study. #1 China has a Clenbuterol problem. #2 China has 1/5 of the World's population. #3 If WADA Labs in China tested all athletes who live in or compete in China for Clenbuterol using Cologne Lab standard equipment, the world of sports would be turned upside down. Add in Mexico and South America where it's legal, and other places where people cheat, and WADA HAS to set a minimum threshold. All the samples from the Beijing Olympics are stored. Test them all in Cologne for Clenbuterol, and see if anyone in any sport gets to keep a medal.
AS.Com has the entire RFEC Resolution in digital form that Google can translate. How many of the people slinging mud at Spain right now did the Due Diligence to read the legal case first?

The logical conclusion of these so obvious 'facts' as you are happy to call them, is that any athlete eating meat in China is pretty stupid to do so given there so flagrant problem with the substance? Were there any suspensions for that during the Olympics? You brought it up, so seeing as you're so avidly against speculation against a RFEC you qualify it. As for turning sport on its head-well there were how many cyclists in the tour de france last year and how many tested positive for Clenbuterol? On a rest day. On the rest day that if you're going to dope/transfuse, you would do it. And you have plasticisers in your urine in addition to aforementioned banned, zero tolerance substance.
But of course, it is totally without the realm of possibility, let alone liklihood that Contador doped.

The German study, as far as I interpret it, is only relevant to athletes that compete in China. That no athlete has had the same problem in Spain, and that there is no historical or demonstrable issue with the drug there should be enough to put the burden of proof onto Contador. A receipt produced 5 months after the fact isn't exactly airtight, is it?

But seeing as you have all the facts before you you'll know, won't you? Or is it exactly the same ill-informed, over-biased nonsense you're decrying in the opposite direction?

...  Soyez Realiste-Demandez L'impossible ...

posted by Gregoire500 [138 posts]
18th February 2011 - 1:20

12 Likes

chinese meat, wow

Let us get back to what this is about , he was found to have clembuterol in his system , he has not proved where that clembuterol has come from
he is therefore guilty and should be banned for 2 years.

the fact that he can construct a scenario based on illegal clembuterol use in spain cattle production that has not been proved is not in any way an adequate legal defense, he has to prove how the drug mistakenly entered his system

so let me give you an alternative scenario , someone caught with large amounts of excess steroid in the system could claim it was externally added to their food by someone tampering with their food and even provide a witness that said someone had entered a kitchen in a hotel where the food was prepared who wasn't a staff member.
Would this prove the person had ingested the drug accidentally, no it wouldn't we wouldn't accept that defense

So the basis of the contador defense is that this was too low a level to make a difference to performance , but this is no defense because the possibility still exists that this was a microdoping re-infusion of his own blood from when he had taken clembuterol earlier in the year.

in simple terms , none of this matters , the burden of proof for a zero tolerance drug is for him to prove it was accidentally ingested, not to make implausible statments of what could have happened and have them believed.

posted by stevefisher [40 posts]
18th February 2011 - 7:44

8 Likes

I'd be curious about instances of such drugs being present in US-produced meat. They don't follow the same standards we have in Europe and hormones and other stuff like antibiotics are widespread in food production.

I stopped eating meat a long time ago.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2288 posts]
18th February 2011 - 8:12

8 Likes

Some important facts about what the cycling world is calling "passive doping":

- They give EPO to chickens in the Ukraine to make them featherier. So if you eat eggs you've probably got a haematocrit count hovering around 53%, especially in mid-June.

- A lot of man-made fibres contain artifical testoterone, which will rub off into your skin if you wear them for too long.

- I stayed in hotel in Zambia last year where they put a big pot of human growth hormone on the breakfast table every morning. I was having it on my toast each morning for a fortnight thinking it was thick cut orange marmalade.

- Jaeger Bombs are horrible, horrible things but they aren't banned.

posted by BigDummy [298 posts]
18th February 2011 - 9:57

7 Likes

BUT....results in extreme Bovine stamina&speed rendering milking in Espana a potential future olympic event. How do the ungulates manage to open the drug bottles. Bloody devils those spanish cows....Poor Alberto.

posted by scottydug [15 posts]
18th February 2011 - 11:53

8 Likes

So go vegy !! Or at least buy organic meat !!

posted by zoxed [63 posts]
18th February 2011 - 12:04

9 Likes

Regardless of the receipts, the cows and the murky underworld of modern agribusiness, what about the plasticisers that were allegedly in the blood samples?

mr-andrew's picture

posted by mr-andrew [299 posts]
18th February 2011 - 12:13

7 Likes

I'd be interested to know just how much Clenbuterol has to be present in a steak eaten for my dinner to have produced the same reading as in Bertie's number ones.

(Is it safe to assume that, being red meat, not all of it would have been digested and is now bobbing its way around the Med?)

It would then be possible to extrapolate a figure, based on cut and size of the steak (seeing as we now have the receipt which presumably has a weight on it) to have some idea of how much Clen may've been in the donor animal.

Presumably, we might also be able to test the gravy for traces of plasticisers in case that's the source claimed to be responsible for those that allegedly turned up in other samples.

andylul's picture

posted by andylul [413 posts]
18th February 2011 - 12:51

10 Likes