More details have emerged about the investigation by FIFA and the Mexican Government to the clenbuterol levels of the players taking part in this year's U17 World Cup staged in Mexico. As we reported last week that report led WADA to drop its appeal against the acquittals of five Mexican footballers and the Danish cyclist Philip Nielsen for doping infringements involving clenbuterol and Mexican meat.
The reason for WADA's change of heart is now becoming clear, more than half the players competing in this summer’s FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Mexico who were subject to doping controls tested positive for clenbuterol, world football’s governing body has revealed. WADA has accepted that such a large number of positive points to a contaminated food source rather than an attempt to dope. Coming one month before Alberto Contador’s appeal hearing, the news is bound to lead to renewed calls for a minimum threshold to be introduced for the banned substance.
More than half the players competing in this summer’s FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Mexico who were subject to doping controls have tested positive for clenbuterol, world football’s governing body has revealed. Coming one month before Alberto Contador’s appeal hearing, the news is bound to lead to renewed calls for a minimum threshold to be introduced for the banned substance.
The World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) recently said it had no plans to introduce such a threshold when publishing its 2012 Prohibited list.
Mexico and China are seen as the two countries where athletes are most at risk of consuming the anabolic agent innocently as a result of eating contaminated meat.
Ahead of the Under-17 World Cup, countries such as Germany advised their players to avoid red meat, while in cycling, many riders chose not to eat red meat during the recent Tour of Beijing.
It’s not clear how this latest news will affect the Contador case, however. The steak he claims to have eaten during the 2010 Tour de France, which he went on to win, is said to have been brought across the border from Spain into France.
While their have been seizures of clenbuterol by the Spanish authorities investigating illegal practices in farming, where it is used to build muscle mass in livestock, the problem is nowhere near as prevalent as it is in China or Mexico.
Moreover, it could be that the World Anti-doping Agency, which together with the UCI is appealing Contador’s acquittal by the Spanish national federation, may seek to introduce other evidence of doping at the appeal.
That may possibly relate to traces of plasticizers allegedly found in the Saxo BankSunGard rider’s urine, which may provide evidence of an illegal blood transfusion, although no formal test has yet been approved.
The amount of clenbuterol found in the then Astana rider’s sample was 50 picograms of clenbuterol per milliliter – less than that found in the case of the majority of the young footballers in Mexico.
Jiri Dvorak, FIFA's chief medical officer Jiri Dvorak, told AP that 19 of the 24 countries participating in the tournament were affected, but declined to reveal which ones.
“FIFA was very alarmed and it was highly surprising to see something like this - I had not seen anything like it in my 20 years in this post. My first question was, 'could any harm have been done to the players?' and I was assured by the different medical specialists the answer is no,'' he said.
One of the teams that did not have a single player returning a positive test were the hosts, Mexico, who went on to win the tournament.
In the wake of a number of senior players testing positive for the substance ahead of the Concacaf Gold Cup earlier in the summer, attributed to tainted meat, it was firmly off the menu for the junior players, who were given a diet of fish and vegetables instead.
No action is to be taken by FIFA or WADA against the youth footballers, and WADA recently also dropped proceedings against the five senior Mexico players.
Last week, it also revealed that it had decided not to pursue a case against a Danish rider, Philip Nielsen, who had retuned a positive test for clenbuterol following the 2010 Tour of Mexico.
It’s clear now that when it comes to clenbuterol, Mexico is being treated as a special case. Whether that largesse extends to the country’s former imperial governing power, Spain, 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.