Contaminated steak defence works for Dutch cyclist who tested positive for clenbuterol

Rudi van Houts guilty of ingesting banned substance but no sanction given in echo of Contador case

Dutch mountain biker Rudi van Houts of the Multivan-Merida team has been cleared to ride again by his national federation after testing positive for clenbuterol at the end of October.

While the national association, the Koninklijke Nederlandsche Wielren Unie, held that the rider was culpable of having clenbuterol in his system, it accepted his explanation that he had ingesting it innocently after eating a steak during a trip to Mexico.

That excuse will of course sound familiar to anyone following the Alberto Contador case, and a report of the Dutch decision on the Spanish website Biciclismo was quickly retweeted by the Saxo Bank-SunGard’s manager and brother, Fran, on the social network site Twitter.

Contador himself was cleared last month by the Spanish national federation, the RFEC, following his own positive test for the substance in last year’s Tour de France, accepting his defence that he had eaten a contaminated steak brought into France from Spain.

Like Contador, the 27-year-old van Houts engaged the services of the Dutch biochemist Douwe de Boer in his defence. The cyclist’s urine contained a value of 30 picograms of clenbuterol per millilitre of urine, compared to a reading of 50 in Contador’s case.

Although those amounts are tiny, under World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) rules there is no minimum threshold required to test positive for the substance.

While Contador is riding again, returning to competition in the Volta ao Algarve last month a day after the RFEC’s verdict, his case appears to be far from over.

The UCI has until 24 March, a week from today, to lodge any appeal against the Spanish decision with the Court of Arbitration for Sport, while WADA has a further month to decide whether to bring its own action.

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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