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Mexican officials say tainted meat behind 5 footballers testing positive for clenbuterol

Cows come home for Mexico two months after country denied it had problem with contaminated beef

An official from the Mexican Football Federation (Femexfut) claims that five players from the national team who tested positive for clenbuterol following a test on May 21 had eaten contaminated meat, reports Reuters.

The banned anabolic agent, for which there is currently no minimum threshold under World Anti-doping Agency rules in order for a positive result to be returned, has been responsible for a number of athletes failing doping controls in recent years, the highest profile of course being Alberto Contador.

The Spaniard tested positive following a sample taken during last year’s Tour de France when he took his third overall victory in the race.

Clenbuterol is illegally used in some countries to speed up muscle growth in cattle, with the problem said to be particularly acute in China and Mexico. In April, the German anti-doping agency advised athletes from that country not to eat meat when travelling to Mexico or China due to potential contamination.

Mexican authorities denied there was a problem, but with the FIFA Under-17 World Cup due to take place in the country in the coming weeks, visiting teams are sure to be vigilant about what their players eat.

In common with other athletes testing positive for clenbuterol, Contador has claimed that the substance was presence in his system after he ate a steak brought over the border from France to Pau on the Tour’s second rest day.

However, anti-doping operations in Spain since news of Contador’s test became public have resulted in seizures of clenbuterol, suggesting that someone, somewhere is using it as a performance enhancing substance.

The meal that is said to have resulted in the positive tests of the Mexican footballers was eaten at the country’s High Performance Centre where the team was preparing its defence of the Concacaf Gold Cup, the competition for national teams in Central and North America and the Caribbean.

The five players had been suspended from Mexico’s game yesterday against Cuba in Charlotte, North Carolina, which it won 5-0.

Speaking at a press conference after that match, Hector Gonzalez, director of national teams at Femexfut, said: "Unfortunately, by accident, these players ate beef contaminated with the substance clenbuterol.”

Mexican authorities are now investigating meat supplies to the High Performance Centre.

"We're confident that with the investigation that is being carried out we'll be able to clarify (the situation) and reach a happy conclusion," he continued.

Gonzalez said that the players, who are facing bans of up to two years, in question were traveling to Los Angeles for further tests and that he believed those would return negative results.

He added: "We will ask also for the B samples (of the original tests) to be opened and we will await the results."

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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