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Alberto Contador Positive
September 30, 2010 1:54 AM   Subscribe

Three time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador has tested positive for clenbuterol. I know what you're thinking...

Surprise surprise!! Well, this one isn't so straight forward. The amount, 50 pico grams per millilitre, is exceedingly small. And the substance, not particularly performance enhancing for a cyclist during a grand tour, is a commonly found contaminant in meat products. Several athletes have tested positive resulting in mixed sanctions. Had the drug been in another category under WADA rules, the tiny amount detected would not have been considered a positive.

The current theories are 1) Food contamination during the Tour or 2) Transfused contaminated blood. Such contamination being due to taking the drug for weight loss, or just as easily due to eating contaminated food. Either way, if his blood got contaminated, and was then stored, the accident could happen.

In any case cycling has once again delivered the ambiguity which makes it a favourite sport for the cynical.
posted by Chuckles (36 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Had the drug been in another category under WADA rules, the tiny amount detected would not have been considered a positive.

Had the crime been legal, it would have been legal. So?

The current theories are 1) Food contamination during the Tour or 2) Transfused contaminated blood.

… not to mention 3) he took the banned drug.
posted by robcorr at 2:11 AM on September 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


(And, n.b., 3) is the same as 2), since when bikers transfuse blood it's their own blood they're using.)
posted by koeselitz at 2:16 AM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


why don't you repost this when a decision has been reached.
posted by parmanparman at 2:28 AM on September 30, 2010


I know what your thinking...

Hooray! Andy Schleck won!
posted by clearly at 2:55 AM on September 30, 2010 [11 favorites]


Let's assume for the sake of argument that the team eats together. The food is contaminated. No one else tests positive. Ooops. Let's try another theory.
posted by fixedgear at 3:07 AM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


This kind of thing is why the precise results of drug tests are never made public, if this is truly meat contamination then it looks like they have an embarrassingly administered test.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:45 AM on September 30, 2010


I'm honestly torn between thinking this is nit-picky above and beyond the call of even a sport as steeped in cheating as professional cycling and SUCK IT YOU NON-WAITING ASS ANDY THE EEL WON.

Re-reading the first clause, though -- does the amount of the drug found affect how much would have originally been administered? I assumed this was so, but would welcome correction. If he really was given clenbuterol in a dosage that was effective, would more have shown up in the sample?
posted by kalimac at 4:27 AM on September 30, 2010


[I clipped the grammar derail]
posted by vacapinta at 4:50 AM on September 30, 2010


Huh. Man without honor perhaps with even less honor than previously thought.

the substance, not particularly performance enhancing for a cyclist during a grand tour,

Given the race between the testers and the dopers, I always assume that a "slight" positive, or a positive for a substance "not particularly performance enhancing," is just the tip of the iceberg. Who knows what kinds of combinations and stacks these guys are using? Who knows what clenbuterol can be used to mask, providing plausible (sic) deniability?
posted by OmieWise at 5:00 AM on September 30, 2010


Contador apparently has asthma, like a huge amount of athletes, so it would have been easier to use Ventolin instead of Clenbuterol; as he has a doctor's attest allowing him to use that. And Ventolin used in copious amounts is very good doping, according to the Belgian sprinter Erik Wijmeersch; who wrote a book about the performance enhancing drugs he used.

So, that rules Clenbuterol out the main doping used. Except that rumours have it, it can be used to mask EPO use. Whereas there are a lot easier ways to mask EPO use, like drinking water.

No, I am with Dutch doping expert Douwe de Boer on this. The war on doping was made victims before from people who were innocent, and a zero tolerance on everything will not help anything or anyone. And having just a couple of molecules in your blood doesn't proof a thing about abuse.

Also, since Contador was tested a lot of times during the Tour, it will not be difficult to spot when the anomaly first became visible.
posted by ijsbrand at 5:07 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Given the race between the testers and the dopers,

Isn't the race between cyclists? The juice works. When some of the best cyclists use performance enhancing drugs how else are you going to run with them?
posted by three blind mice at 5:23 AM on September 30, 2010


Also, since Contador was tested a lot of times during the Tour, it will not be difficult to spot when the anomaly first became visible.

Look here:
  • Alberto Contador underwent sport drug testing during many days of the 2010 Tour de France, including July 19, 20, 21, and 22.
  • No Clenbuterol was detected in any of the tests prior to July 21. An extremely low trace concentration of Clenbuterol was found in the urine sample taken on
  • July 21; the concentration found in the urine sample taken on July 22 was even lower.
  • The half-life of Clenbuterol is 25-39 hours.
posted by peeedro at 5:31 AM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


The current theories are 1) Food contamination during the Tour or 2) Transfused contaminated blood.

Hey, y'know, it's just like how Floyd Landis' positive result for testosterone was likely the result of him drinking whiskey the night before! Or Tyler Hamilton has a "genetic chimera" twin lurking out there who is totally unknown to him! These are the only possibilities, because they're the only ones I listed!
posted by indubitable at 5:31 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


The half-life of Clenbuterol is 25-39 hours.

Given this fact, and that he was tested clean roughly 24 hours before the test that found 50 picograms, he could not have had more than 100 picograms (at the very top end of the estimate) in bloodstream, surely? Is this enough to have any notable physiological effect? It seems disappearingly small for a purposefully administered dose...

(Wikipedia claims the half-life is even longer - 36-39 hours, putting it more at something like 75 picograms at theoretical peak.)
posted by Dysk at 6:09 AM on September 30, 2010


In the official UCI statement, it is said that the quantity is indeed very small.

Contador's statement today[Spanish]: quantity too small to enhance performance, impossible to administer such small quantities. Being the Tour's leader meant that he underwent daily tests which showed no positive for clembuterol. He claims it was contaminated meat brought from Spain (it's ilegal in Spain to use clembuterol in cattle, it's use is to speed up the growing process). He claims that when he was notified, the UCI officials confirmed to him it had to be contaminated food.
Team Astana cook claims [Spanish] that this specific meat was eaten only by the Spanish riders of the team. The day of the positive only Contador and Vinokurov were tested. Vino did not eat said meat.

disclaimer: I'm related to one of the Spanish riders that ate the infamous meat. I don't know; seems plausible to me that this is not a doping case. And yes, enough weird medical crap happens in cycling within the bounds of legality that could make this a real doping case.
posted by valdesm at 6:14 AM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'll admit to at this point being totally cynical about competitive cycling; it's gotten so totally enmeshed in doping that trying to figure out who is at least sort of clean seems like a total waste of time. All of them are pushing the envelope as hard as they can; many are well across into illegality.

So my reaction is to shrug and ask what does one more semi-dirty cyclist matter? Until or unless they make the changes across the sport that will address this, it's not a sport I'm going to care about in the slightest.
posted by Forktine at 6:16 AM on September 30, 2010


fixedgear: Let's assume for the sake of argument that the team eats together. The food is contaminated. No one else tests positive. Ooops. Let's try another theory.

You're making the assumption that the entire team is tested together, which is not the case. Contador, as the yellow jersey holder, would have been tested as standard... the other riders would have had to be picked at random from the entire peloton.

That said, I agree with indubitable's comment above this one. We've heard all these excuses before. Whisky, invisible siamese twins, too much sex before the test is carried out*, all the blood rushing to your legs because of a crash**, bad meat... the likelihood is he just doped and got caught, just like all the others.

* Thanks for the mental image Bjorn Leukemans

** Stop talking bollocks Vino
posted by afx237vi at 6:18 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm going with Dr. Occam on this one.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:43 AM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]




Everyone who is making a professional living competing in elite level competitive sports and is at the top of the rankings is on some kind of juice. Anyone who says they're clean is lying just has the really high-quality stuff that hasn't been set up for detection by the system yet.

Period. Every last one of them.

Because we know there are people out there using enhancement substances who are only a little bit less-skilled than the top-ranked competitors in their field and pushing hard to knock them off their pedastal (and get those endorsement contracts).

So either the top-ranked athletes are juicing, or they're so superhumanly awesome, trained SO HARD, ate all their Wheaties and took all their vitamins, that they can beat someone whose 85% as good as them AND juicing.

I highly recommend the documentary Bigger, Stronger, Faster*. A fascinating and enlightening look at the subject of steroids (and chemical enhancement of athletic performance in general), attitudes towards them, and the hype, hypocrisy, and hysteria around them.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 6:46 AM on September 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Isn't the race between cyclists?

Not the race I'm talking about. The race I'm talking about is between people who create tests for banned substances, and people who create substances that either fool the tests or provide the benefits of currently banned substances but which haven't been made a concern yet. This is what Balco was in the business of doing.
posted by OmieWise at 8:00 AM on September 30, 2010


Yeah, I'm going with Dr. Occam on this one.

And where would that lead you? Because, from my perspective, it looks like he didn't do it (or he's a moron). If he knew he was being tested, why would he take the drugs? And if he did choose to take the drugs, why did he decide to take an ineffective dose?

None of this adds up.
posted by schmod at 8:12 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's still a fantastically amazing sport to watch, but Jesus H., they are making it really hard to be a fan.
posted by incessant at 8:13 AM on September 30, 2010


Because, from my perspective, it looks like he didn't do it (or he's a moron). If he knew he was being tested, why would he take the drugs? And if he did choose to take the drugs, why did he decide to take an ineffective dose?

This ignores the possibility that he took the drug as part of an unknown combination/in order to mask using something else. I'd be surprised (but not shocked) if he stupidly took this drug in this way alone, but my working assumption is that all we can see here are the shadows.
posted by OmieWise at 8:32 AM on September 30, 2010


As a cyclist and pro cycling fan, I'm dismayed as to the depths at which the focus on doping has been taken.

It's become the boogie man for everything in cycling these days. When anyone wins convincingly, doping must be discussed. "He is/was on the hot sauce" has become the rallying cry for every fan who's favorite didn't win.

It hard to argue that the days of heavy doping in cycling have continued as it was during the early 2000s. The 50 picograms of clenbuterol found would have no effect on performance. They are simply not finding the significant amounts of drugs in the Pro Tour these days. Heading toward the absurdity of Zero Tolerance where athletes can't even take antihistamines for allergies is stupid.

I don't have a great solution, but I'm tired of cycling being synonymous with doping, when it's probably the cleanest and most tested sport in the world.
posted by Argyle at 8:51 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anyone have any insight on the 'food contamination' angle? I'm guessing farmers would give it to pigs etc. in order to get leaner meat. What would my clenbuterol levels be the day after eating a breakfast roll?
posted by kersplunk at 8:56 AM on September 30, 2010


Read the thread at cycling news. There is a lot of noise, but if you read the first ~40 pages you'll get a lot of good information.

One thing that doesn't come up till page 66 is talk that traces of plasticizers were found in Contador's blood--which indicates that he must have been transfused from a blood bag.
posted by Chuckles at 9:56 AM on September 30, 2010


schmod: “...from my perspective, it looks like he didn't do it (or he's a moron). If he knew he was being tested, why would he take the drugs? And if he did choose to take the drugs, why did he decide to take an ineffective dose? \ None of this adds up.”

What doesn't add up? He was almost certainly transfusing; he probably assumed that, as in most cases, transfusions wouldn't contain enough traces of the drugs he was using when he stored to be detectable. Sure, that was a risk, but it's not an unintelligent risk.
posted by koeselitz at 10:19 AM on September 30, 2010


(By which I mean, of course, that it's pretty obvious that he was using.)
posted by koeselitz at 10:20 AM on September 30, 2010


Seem like the plasticizers, if true, is really the damning bit of evidence.
posted by chinston at 10:32 AM on September 30, 2010


Even if it's determined to be a doping violation, this is a far, far, far cry from the RAGING-EPO days.

It's also a far, far cry from the major sports, which barely test athletes. Cycling has a bad rap in part because it does something about PEDs.
posted by entropone at 10:36 AM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ouch, there is not a good reason for a pro bicyclist to be taking clen, unless he's got an eating disorder and is willing to give up performance in exchange for lower bodyfat. My understanding is clen is a pretty damn nasty fat-burner, and while it helps the pounds fall up your mitochondria start actually dying and good luck lifting any weight or playing sports. It's used by bodybuilders and figure models and the like during the cutting phase up to competition, as they have no need to actually use their muscles provided they have just enough energy to stand on stage and hit their poses.
posted by schroedinger at 2:40 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Head of French Anti-doping agency resigns. Not directly over this issue, but cycling is a tangled web.
posted by Chuckles at 12:50 AM on October 3, 2010


Contador apparently has claimed to have asthma, like a huge amount of athletes, so it would have been easier to use Ventolin instead of Clenbuterol; as he has a his on-the-take doctor's attest allowing him to use that.

FTFY, ijsbrand.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:39 PM on October 3, 2010




DOOD, I hope they retest Armstrong's samples, catch him, and he gets skinned and hung up like a trophy pelt.

Not for being a juicer, they all are. It goes with the territory. But if you get up in front of the cameras and act all aggrieved, clutch your pearls, and make with the "How dare they accuse me of such a thing" act...

Hypocrisy is bad enough. Play the "Sanctimonious Hypocrisy" card and I keep the skinning knife and the staple gun ready to hand.

The morning after Floyd Landis accuses him of being a juicer he crashes his bike. Coincidence? Guilty conscience?

*LOADS FRESH STAPLES*
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:18 AM on October 7, 2010


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