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Where's the beef? Spanish police seize clenbuterol, and not a cow in sight

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.

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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