At least five arrested in doping enquiry in Catalonia, EPO also found

Police in Spain have arrested at least five people as part of an anti-doping operation, reports the Catalan newspaper, Vanguardia, citing sources close to the investigation, with EPO and clenbuterol among the substances seized that are believed to have been supplied to athletes.

The arrests were made by regional police force the Mossos d’Esquadra in various parts of Catalonia at five residential addresses.

The suspects will be interviewed today by the court which opened the investigation in Olot, 50km or so northwest of Girona, home to a number of cyclists, proving particularly popular with the English-speaking brigade, and the European base of Garmin-Cervelo.

Clenbuterol, needless to say, is the substance for which Alberto Contador tested positive during last year’s Tour de France, although earlier this week he was cleared of charges by the Spanish national federation, the RFEC, which accepted his defence that the substance had entered his system as a result of his having eaten a tainted steak.

As we reported yesterday, researchers from the German Sport University in Cologne, whose laboratory was, by coincidence, the one that tested Contador's samples last year, have conducted a study that confirmed that eating contaminated meat can lead to innocent ingestion of clenbuterol.

Certainly, the contaminated meat excuse appears to have become the established defence for athletes facing doping charges as a result of clenbuterol being found in their system, with the German table tennis federation last year clearing table tennis Olympic medallist Dimitrij Ovtcharov after he had tested positive for the substance. That decision is to be challenged by the World Anti-doping Agency at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

This latest news from Spain, however, suggests that despite the protestations of dodgy food being to blame, someone, somewhere is using clenbuterol in an attempt to enhance their performance. Whether this investigation in Catalonia manages to establish who remains to be seen.

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.