The World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) has announced changes to its Prohibited List for 2012, with the biggest story from a cycling point of view not surrounding any additions or exclusions, but rather a substance that has seen no change in its status – clenbuterol.
It was the presence, of course, of a minuscule amount of clenbuterol in a sample taken from Alberto Contador during the second rest day of the 2010 Tour de France – a race that he went on to win – that led the Spaniard failing a doping test.
Contador, who has always maintained that the banned substance was present in his system as a result of his having eaten a contaminated steak, was cleared of charges by the Spanish national federation, the RFEC, at the start of this year. Since then, he has won his second Giro d’Italia, and finished fifth in July’s Tour de France.
The Spanish decision has been appealed by both WADA and world cycling’s governing body, the UCI, to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), with the much-delayed hearing now set for November.
However, with a number of athletes successfully employing the contaminated meat defence after testing positive for clenbuterol, and Mexico and China in particular being seen as countries where the risk of innocent contamination is high, WADA was, according to recent reports, considering introducing a minimum threshold.
If that had happened, it would have provided Contador’s legal team with a compelling case to have the ongoing proceedings against him terminated; instead, the Saxo-Bank SunGard rider, who was racing for Astana at the time of his positive test, will have to face his day of reckoning in Lausanne.
In an explanatory note regarding the status of clenbuterol published on its website, WADA said: “Clenbuterol is a prohibited substance and there is no threshold under which this substance is not prohibited.
“At present, and based on expert opinions, there is no plan to introduce a threshold level for clenbuterol.
“It is possible that under certain circumstance the presence of a low level of clenbuterol in an athlete sample can be the result of food contamination. However, each case is different and all elements need to be taken into account, along with the context of the case.
“Under the World Anti-Doping Code, result management of cases foresees the opportunity for an athlete to explain how a prohibited substance entered his/her body.
“WADA is working closely with countries, International Federations and event organizers to help minimize the risk of contamination through the monitoring of meat to official hotels and restaurants. This is a government issue and not a WADA issue.”
WADA added that it had decided against adding nicotine to the list of banned substances, despite what was described as an “alarm increase” in levels of the substance among athletes competing in 43 sports monitored.
Rather than targeting smokers, however, concerns surround the potential in-competition performance-enhancing effects of tobacco products such as snuff.
Caffeine continues to be monitored, but is not banned, having been removed from the Prohibite List in 2004.
Finally, in news that will no doubt be suitably toasted with White Russians by cardigan-wearing Dudes sporting goatees, alcohol will no longer be banned during competition from ninepin or tenpin bowling - although marijuana, of course, remains firmly on the Prohibited List.
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.