Saxo-Tinkoff rider Michael Rogers has been provisionally suspended by the UCI after testing positive for clenbuterol – the same substance that led to team mate Alberto Contador being stripped of the 2010 Tour de France title he won while racing with Astana.
The urine sample that produced the positive test was taken at the Japan Cup, which Rogers won, on 20th October. The Australian rider, aged 33, has the right to request an analysis of his B sample.
The UCI says his provisional suspension “remains in force until a hearing panel convened by his national federation determines whether he has committed an anti-doping rule violation under Article 21 of the UCI Anti-Doping Rules.”
In the week prior to the Japan Cup, Rogers had been competing in the Tour of Beijing in China, where clenbuterol is regularly – and illegally – used to build muscle mass in livestock and poultry, provoking regular food safety scandals.
A statement from Saxo-Tinkoff said that the rider had informed the team's management of the positive test, and added: "The Australian explained to the team management that he never ingested the substance knowingly nor deliberately and fears that the adverse analytical finding origins from a contaminated food source.
"Michael Rogers participated in Tour of Beijing the week before the Japan Cup and travelled directly from China to Japan."
There is no minimum threshold required for an adverse analytical finding of clenbuterol to be produced, although there is a potential defence if an athlete can show there was “no fault or negligenge” on their part.
The World Anti Doping Code defines that as “The Athlete's establishing that he or she did not know or suspect, and could not reasonably have known or suspected even with the exercise of utmost caution, that he or she had Used or been administered the Prohibited Substance or Prohibited Method.”
Rogers, a three-time world time trial champion – the first of those came after David Millar was stripped of his 2003 title for doping – joined Saxo-Tinkoff this year after spending two seasons at Team Sky, where he helped Sir Bradley Wiggins win the 2012 Tour de France.
News of his positive test comes the day after the UCI requested British Cycling and UK Anti-Doping to open disciplinary proceedings against Team Sky rider Jonathan Tiernan-Locke in connection with his biological passport data.
Ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games, China banned its athletes from eating meat due to fears that they could inadvertently ingest clenbuterol from contaminated food. China’s 2009 judo world champion Tong Wen was given a two-year ban in 2010 and stripped of her title when clenbuterol was found in her bloodstream.
Another country acknowledged to have a significant problem with clenbuterol entering the food chain is Mexico.
In 2011 the World Anti-Doping Agency accepted an explanation from FIFA that its was tainted food that had led to five players from the country testing positive for it at the Central American Football championships.
According to a report commissioned by FIFA, 109 players in the 2011 U17 World Cup, held in Mexico, tested positive for clenbuterol, which it said highlighted the scale of the problem there.
At the same time, WADA also agreed with the Danish Cycling Federation that contaminated beef was the explanation for a positive test for the substance by Philip Nielsen at the 2010 Tour of Mexico.
Last year, the Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected Contador’s claim that his positive test for clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour de France was due to a steak bought across the border in Spain that he claimed had been contaminated with it.
WADA insisted that while it acknowledged that contamination of food with clenbuterol was a widespread problem in Mexico and China, there was no such situation in Spain.
While CAS accepted that Contador had not used clenbuterol as a performance enhancing substance, it held that it had found its way into his system through a contaminated food supplement, banning him for two years, most of it backdated, and stripping him of his 2010 Tour de France and 2011 Giro d’Italia wins.
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