Meatgate update – WADA wants its day in court over Alberto Contador doping case…

While top IoC man expresses doubts over "accidental" doping

by Tony Farrelly   February 27, 2011  

Alberto_Contador_PhSpt

It's been a quiet week in the Alberto Contador doping case, but that's not to say nothing has happened. in the past few days the head of the World Anti-Doping Agancy (WADA) has confirmed that the organisation wants its day in court and that it's prepared to play a long game; Contdador's lawyer explained the "misunderstanding" over RFEC's one year ban that wasn't; and the IoC's top anti-doping official said he had never seen convincing evidence in  any claim of accidental doping by eating contaminated food.

"The case is not finished". Just in case any sunny optimists on the Iberian peninsula hadn't got the message, the head of the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA), David Howman, spelled out the organisation's position loud and clear speaking at a conference in Budapest.

Tellingly In the interview with the German dpa News Agency Howman went out of his way not to ruffle any feathers at the UCi - the two bodies have not always enjoyed the best of relations and under his predecessor Dick Pound things got downright rocky with then WADA boss regularly commenting on the perceived shortcomings of UCI procedures – the two organisations fell out spectacularly over the introduction of the UCI's Biological Passport program for riders. However, those fences are long since mended and Howman, a more conciliatory figure seems keen to keep them mended too.

The UCI has 30 days following the decision by the Spanish cycling federation (RFEC) to decide what action if any it wants to take, after that WADA then has a further 21 days to decide on what action it wants to take, Howman did not rule out a possible joint appeal by both bodies to the Court for Arbitration in Sport (CAS) but he stressed that UCI procedures must run their course. He also made it clear that WADA had no problem with the UCI making it the responsibility of a rider's national federation to institute disciplinary proceedings in the first instance - with the international body then ratifying (or not) the sanction imposed

"It's the rule that they have at UCI, that every case at the first level has to be dealt with by the country where the rider is registered. That's their rule," Howman noted.
"They've got the authority to make their rules the way they wish. So long as they're in compliance with the (anti-doping) code, then that's their decision," he said.
Ironically this is an aspect of cycling's governance that comes in for criticism from within the cycling community by those who feel it leads to favouritism towards star riders by their national federations.

On the thorny subject of a baseline threshold for clenbuterol testing, below which samples would not be considered positive, Howman said that was a decision for WADA policy makers but he made it clear that he was not in favour:

"I think the issue is this. If you introduce a threshold, then what you might do is miss a person who has taken the substance let's say three months ago, and it's still in their body. So when they test, it's not a huge amount, it's a small amount because it's left over from three months ago."

He also pointed out that currently there is no scientific evidence to show at what point low level amounts of clenbuterol stop having a boosting effect nor is there a political definition of at what point the amount of the drug in an athlete's system is considered cheating. "What level do you want us to go to to try to find that somebody's been cheating? That's a political decision, it's not my decision. At the moment we don't have a level, politically and scientifically."

On the subject of clenbuterol the WADA director general has asked the Chinese to provide evidence about the levels of clenbuterol abuse by Chinese farmers bulking up their livestock. Scores of Chinese athletes have failed tests for clenbuterol in recent years many citing tainted meat as the cause, amongst them RadioShack's Chinese rider, Fuyu Li, while as reported here recently a study of travelers returning from China by the German Sport University Cologne found that 22 of 28 people tested would have failed a dope test for clenbuterol - with tainted meat being cited as the most likely reason.

Howman wouldn't comment on the specifics of the Contador case and neither later in the week would Prof Arne Ljungqvist the president of the IoC Medical Commission and as such it's chief anti-doping official, however he did make some comments which might prove relevant further down the line.

Speaking to the Australian newspaper, The Age Ljungqvist said he had seen no convincing evidence yet of food contamination in doping cases and he remained dubious of such claims of accidental doping. Again, while refusing to comment on the specifics of the Contador case Prof Ljungqvist said:

''It's not the first time that a national federation excuses their own athlete…That's why we have this safeguard of an appeal system. We've had cases of that kind even as far back as the 1980s, and so far there has been no hearing panel that has accepted those arguments in the end.''

As well as being the IoC's head of anti-doping Professor Ljunqvist is also the vice president of WADA's Foundation Board, WADA's supreme decision making body and the one which would have the final say so on any changes to the rules regarding threshold amounts of clenbuterol in test samples. Amusingly, or perhaps not depending on your point of view, both former WADA chief Dick Pound and UCI boss, Pat McQuaid also sit on the Foundation Board which must add a level of complication to the seating plan whenever they all get together.

In other Contador related news The Independent last week spoke to Alberto Contador's lawyer, Andy Ramos who explained that the furore over RFEC's apparent decision to scrap an initial one year ban in favour of complete acquital had all been a misunderstanding… something of a recurring theme in the Contador case.

6 user comments

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They already have a minimum laboratory testing standard for Clenbuterol. The scientists obviously did their due diligence in coming up with that figure, 40 times the amount in Contador's urine. If that's tough enough for the areas served by labs that can't do any better, it should be fair play to make that the standard for everyone. All of these Clenbuterol positives are obviously from the most accurate labs. These athletes are singled out in the media and ostracized, while athletes who are tested at the many less accurate labs could have twenty or thirty times as much in their system and no one knows. Howman's example of trying to catch someone for what he did 3 months earlier, with no tests during that period, is obviously a different situation than someone who was tested six days in a row, with a trace positive in the middle.

posted by theswordsman [4 posts]
27th February 2011 - 23:00

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Contador didn't fail one test though, the UCI confirmed that he failed tests on consecutive days, but in accordance with their rules they treated all three failed tests as evidence of one potential doping incident.

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posted by Tony Farrelly [4135 posts]
28th February 2011 - 10:04

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'thewordsman' you are just supporting excuses.

plasticisers in the urine (alleged)are part of the picture in this case ,

The scenario that still cannot be excluded is that he had a microinfusion containing a trace of clembuterol that was in his blood from earlier in the year , therefore giving the low level on one test.
Clembuterol clears the system pretty quickly so the argument from WAda is in this case not very accurate , but it is the case that he was caught with clembuterol in his system with no adequate reason for it , the level doesn't matter it is a zero tolerance drug,

your argument is we should set the level to the worst performing labs and exclude all positives below that.
do you want a clean sport or not? he was caught , there is no adequate explaination , he should be banned

posted by stevefisher [40 posts]
28th February 2011 - 10:11

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stevefisher has put it the way I've read it: tiny amounts of the banned substance Clenbuterol are still an offence.

As the test for the presence of plasticiser of the type used for blood bags is not ratified (or whatever the word is) yet it cannot be used in a doping case. However, it supports the notion of infusing blood, which is also against the rules.

There are riders beneath some labs' radar but we can only hope they will improve their testing procedures to find such quantities. It is not in the interest of clean sport to say "OK, let's allow a small amount of this banned substance because lab A can't detect it". That's surely like suggesting you can alter the speed limit based on the varying accuracy of each police force's differing speed cameras. Allowing dopers to cheat by not bothering to test samples accurately enough... what planet are you on?

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posted by Simon E [1946 posts]
28th February 2011 - 21:32

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The thing here was he cheating and can you prove he was.

I have failed to see from any reports how he benefited from this small amount. If he benefited, he cheated, and should have the book thrown at him and be banned for life like all drug cheats, BUT if it had no effect there's no benefit form it and the tests can't prove benefit from the amount but there comes a problem with a media witch hunt later.

My problem with this is that there seems to be no clinical research regarding effective levels which like the police camera analogy above is, that if the cameras aren't accurate then you can't be proved to be speeding. If a speed camera is wrong because the camera is faulty like as it seems with this drug is inconclusive, then WADA or who ever should refine the test so that people like Contador can't wriggle out of what they have been up to.

Just a thought

posted by Ciaran Patrick [117 posts]
1st March 2011 - 19:37

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the above post implies the test could be wrong , and suggests you have to prove he was actively cheating , no .He was caught with the drug in the system , he has to prove he wasn't

no , the test is right , a very small amount ,

read the above posts ad the other threads and material ,

if you reinfuse a small amount of blood on a regular basis you can defraud the 'passport system' of checking , that is to say the haematocrit measure of the percentage of red cells in the blood doesn't dramatically alter.

If you used the clembuterol earlier in the year when things were not going so well and you mysteriously developed an 'illness' dropped out of competition , went away and didnt get tested for a couple of weeks, you have some blood taken out then also so that your haematocrit is not seen to fall because after a couple of weeks it has recovered back to where it was ,

you then have microinfusions of that blood to give a little boost.

The only reason someone gets caught is because the lab can detect the lower level.

once again.... it is a zero tolerance drug , that is not naturally occurring in the body , therefore it was put there , therefore he cheated unless he can PROVE he didn't ,
he can't therefore he is a cheat and should be banned for 2 years

posted by stevefisher [40 posts]
1st March 2011 - 20:46

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