September 30th, 2010
06:55 PM ET

Could bad meat cause a positive drug test?

[cnn-video url="http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/sports/2010/09/30/riddell.friebe.contador.intv.cnn/"%5D

Medical experts are divided over whether bad meat could result in a positive finding in a doping test.

Reigning Tour de France champion Alberto Contador was provisionally suspended Thursday from competitive cycling by the sport's governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), after trace amounts of clenbuteral were found in the analysis of a urine sample taken during an in-competition test on July 21.

"It is a food contamination case of which I am the victim," the cyclist said, adding that the result was due to bad meat he and several other riders had eaten the day before the urine test. Read more here.

Clenbuterol is typically abused by athletes and bodybuilders for its ability to reduce body fat and increase skeletal muscle mass, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

There are some reports that clenbuterol has been illegally used to enhance the size of animals.  Human consumption of these products has been known to cause several outbreaks of illnesses in Spain, France, Italy, China, and Portugal, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Sickness typically occurs only a few hours after eating products containing traces of the substance  and can include  symptoms such as increased heart rate, nervousness, headache and muscular tremor, which typically resolve within two to six days.

Contador’s defense cannot be discounted, said Charles E. Yesalis, professor of health policy and administration, exercise and sport science at Pennsylvania State University.

“When I saw that defense that it’s meat, one, I wasn’t surprised at the defense and two, at first blush, it can’t be dismissed,” he said. “The notion that it’s demonstrated to increase muscle mass of cattle, I don’t think it’s a great leap that meat could have clenbuteral. I wouldn’t dismiss it.” In the same breath, Yesalis also said: “It could be a bunch of malarkey.”

Another expert in doping said these tests are highly sophisticated science. Medical tests can have false positives, but it's unlikely in this situation.

“There’s always a possibility of false results,” said Dr. Douglas McKeag, a director of the Indiana University Center for Sports Medicine, Indiana University, and member of the American College of Sports Medicine. “I would be very, very surprised if that’s the case here.”

Urine samples undergo a process known as mass spectrometry, a technique to detect compounds and the quantity.

The UCI said that the amounts of the prohibited stimulant found in the sample were low and that a second sample had also been tested.

soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. Thaelmann

    They're lying about clenbuterol, it is a substance that burns fat and increases adrenalin and endurance capability. Clen is not an anabolic steroid, it is something totally different. This is the perfect drug for cyclists and other endurance athletes. Friebe is lying to cover up the widespread use of clenbuterol in competitive cycling and other endurance sports.

    September 30, 2010 at 19:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dan

      Beat me to the punch. I was expecting to see some exotic AA of PA's design or similar; I stopped reading when I saw clen...to the uniformed masses, as Thaelmann stated, this substance was used primarily in asthmatics to open the airways, amongst other benefits.

      Need further proof? Know anyone who uses an Abulterol inhaler? It's clenBUTEROLs weaker brother!

      September 30, 2010 at 20:51 | Report abuse |
    • Susan

      You should not have to take a drug to enhance your performance in any sport – this is a basic contradiction between what you allege to be doing (a healthy, sporting activity) and what you are actually doing (drugging yourself and harming your body). Duh.

      September 30, 2010 at 22:08 | Report abuse |
    • JG

      This is what happens when you place all the importance on the winning part, instead of having fun.

      October 1, 2010 at 02:20 | Report abuse |
    • Tyler

      Susan, when has sports ever been about a healthy activity? At least at the pro/national level. I feel like as soon as the digits start getting paid, it becomes less about the game and more about winning. Sure, there are plenty of athletes who do it for the game. But think there's plenty more who just want the fame and money.

      However, I do feel that using steroids or any kind of drug like that is a stupid choice, to say nothing of the health risks. It's sad that enhancing has gotten so close to being the norm.

      October 1, 2010 at 10:40 | Report abuse |
  2. B. A.

    You sound like you know what you're talking about. Thanks for the heads up.

    September 30, 2010 at 20:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Jesus

    That's why I will never eat meat that has been pre-chewed by Barry Bonds.

    September 30, 2010 at 20:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Mitch

    Chemicals that were 'unintentially' introduced into the environment are found in all areas of the earth. Greed dictates that chemicals be put into anything that moves or doesn't move in order to sell more chemicals, increase production, distort reality; to profit in some way.
    On the other end, the products that people sell, i. e. drug tests, are of course perfect and error proof, better than those of the competitor's which of course are not.

    September 30, 2010 at 20:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dan

      Where the hell are you going with this?

      September 30, 2010 at 20:53 | Report abuse |
  5. Th3rd

    Wow Dan, thanks for the info, that's crazy. I'm one of those Albuterol users. Thanks for enlightening me.

    & lmao @ Dan...I agree

    September 30, 2010 at 21:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jen

      ??? what are you saying... the story leads the reader to believe the cock-a-maney "it was the beef" lie. I doubt very much that the beef was asthmatic. Give me a break- these guys will do anything to win... and they got caught. end of story.

      October 1, 2010 at 07:17 | Report abuse |
    • AGeek

      Jen, the word you're looking for is "cockamamie".

      October 1, 2010 at 07:36 | Report abuse |
    • Tyler

      I actually like Jen's version better.

      October 1, 2010 at 10:48 | Report abuse |
  6. FrancescaJo

    WOW this is truley amazing good job to the reporter keep up the good work!

    September 30, 2010 at 21:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Hobbs

    Bad meat, yeah right. Maybe his boy-friend should keep his meat a little cleaner.

    September 30, 2010 at 23:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Matt

    By "bad" meat, is he implying "spoiled" or "rancid" meat? If he has eaten the same meal in the past and not had an issue, why this time, we must wonder?

    October 1, 2010 at 00:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Todd

      Maybe "bad" means "evil". This meat will drain your soul once given the opportunity.

      October 1, 2010 at 12:18 | Report abuse |
  9. BD70

    If some of the other cyclists ingested this "bad" meat then why didn't they test positive?

    October 1, 2010 at 05:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Will

    one thing that hasn't been mentioned here is the level of clenbuterol in his blood: 50 picograms per mL (i.e. 50 trillionths of a gram), which is almost 200 times beneath the limit that would have any biological effect.

    Obviously this doesn't discount the possibility that Contador was cheating, however it does lend some credence to the possibility of food contamination (and they're not suggesting that the meat was rancid; merely that it had some clenbuterol in it).

    Perhaps more to the point, if a cyclist wanted to gain performance advantage whilst minimizing the risks of being caught, then Clenbuterol would not be the drug of choice.

    The real travesty here is that this story has been made public before the final conclusion, based on the science, has been made. Cycling is the most tested professional sport (and rightly so), and has cleaned up in leaps and bounds over the past few years. Stories such as this will only undermine such progress.

    October 1, 2010 at 08:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. AmyKate

    oh give me a break, here we go again. Yank the jersey, give it to Andy. I am one of the remaining US cycling fans, but it's getting harder to stay interested in this sport, especially because I fell for Floyd's crap and supported him for years. You should have seen all the "ha ha's and I told you so's" in my inbox that day. The "where's the beef been" defense is a clever one, Alberto. Not as original as the lost twin, though..... When I see a cyclist now that seems to have super human strength, I question him. Now I question Cancellara. Shame on me???

    October 1, 2010 at 08:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • EyeHeartNOLA

      Never question the Fabulous one. The same people who are jumping to conclusions here (even though they may eventually be proven correct) were the same ones who convinced the UCI to xray bicycles everyday of the tour so that they could rule out hidden motors.

      October 4, 2010 at 23:30 | Report abuse |
  12. pharmarider?

    That's too bad for Contador, thought he would have been smarter than that. I hope for his sake that it was the beef. Long term use of Clenbuterol causes permanent changes to the heart. It causes a valve on that all too important pump to grow and eventually malfunction. I would hate to see him added to that list of endurance athletes that fall out from early heart failure, he's a rare talent.

    October 1, 2010 at 09:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Aaron

    Very doubtful...to the point of impossible that this is why the rider failed. And if the farmer and the rider were both looking to cheat, trenbolone acetate would have been a much better choice.

    October 1, 2010 at 09:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Aaron

    Trenbolone acetate would have been a better choice...for the cyclist and the cow.

    October 1, 2010 at 09:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Coty


    October 1, 2010 at 10:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. I Am PaWnage

    Don't be N00bs meat will not give u a positive on drug test that N00b was just taking drugs.

    October 1, 2010 at 10:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. peenoobs

    yeah like roofies... then he rapes himself

    October 1, 2010 at 10:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Don

    Hmmm real interesting since all beef sold in EU is Non Hormone Treated.... Very specific requirements from EU health organization!

    October 1, 2010 at 10:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. BobaFett

    If proper storage of Clen is "between 59 and 86 degrees F," how would it survive being cooked in a steak without breaking down?

    October 1, 2010 at 15:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Bud

    Now they also found a substance that is in blood transfusion bags which would indicate that he had transfusions leading up to the testing. So what is his defense now, that the cow were getting transfusion too?

    October 1, 2010 at 17:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. davide

    Contador having won the Tour de France before would know exactly how stringent the testing is, and once in the Yellow Jersey (race leader) knows he will be tested everyday. So using Clen would seem super-duper risky and not worth it given its relative effectiveness.
    Also the test that shows the plastic in the sample (that might be from an IV bag, indicating an illegal transfusion) is not an approved test because it cannot differentiate between the plastic in IV bags and the plastic in soft drinks and water bottles which we know also leach into the blood. Considering the tiny amount of Clen. found just shows how stringent the testing in pro cycling has become; many other sports need to do the same.

    October 1, 2010 at 19:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Lambs Armstrong

    The amount was too small to enhance performance. And it was a rest day. Nothing found day before. So it probably did come from some unexpected source. But the cow? I doubt it. Clen is a cutter not a mass building anabolic like ones actually used for beef, ganabol comes to mind and works great for cyclists too...see Vuelta Guatelmala news for more on that. Makes more sense to use clen earlier in season and happens to be the same time cyclist store up extra bllod they have flowing around in their veins. So some of that clen gets in the pouch of blood Al keeps in his freezer next to the miniature ice sculpture of his hero Lance who never tested positive because the mysterous cow and sea turtle myoglobin shots he used to win the tour a few times came from cows and sea turtles that weren't on the juice. That pretty much explains it. Don't tell anyone.

    October 2, 2010 at 01:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. fsdfd

    In Sri Caitanya Caritamrita adi lila, chapter 17 verse 166 Caitanya Mahaprabhu confirms:

    go-ange yata loma tata sahasra vatsara

    go-vadhi raurava-madhye pace nirantar

    Cow killers and cow eaters are condemned to rot in hell for as many thousands of years as there are for each hair on the body of every cow they eat from.

    ‘chaitanya-mangala’ shune yadi pashandi, yavana

    seha maha-vaishnava haya tatakshana

    If even a great atheist hears Shri Chaitanya-mangala (previous name for Shri Chaitanya-bhagavata), he immediately becomes a great devotee.

    October 3, 2010 at 20:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Phil

      @ fsdfd I loves me some meat. I hope you arecserious about not eating cow. That means more for me and my friends.

      October 4, 2010 at 20:49 | Report abuse |
  24. jean

    the agribusiness industry is throwing every drug in the book into the stomachs of cows, pigs, sheep and chickens. they ae full of all kinds of drugs to make them grow fast and big. those drugs are not out of the bodies of these animals. and they do feed cows old newspaper, and there could be plastic in there too. they also feee cows chicken manure. the horror of what is fed to animals thesse days is accurate. its all about profits and money in this day and age. the animals are suffering from all of this. the chickens get so heavy they cant even walk. they only live 7 weeks they get so many drugs pumped into them. the food situation in america/europe all over is seriously harmful for people and animals these days. i dont doubt the clenbuterol in meat. did they examine what oher drugs were in there?

    October 5, 2010 at 06:35 | Report abuse | Reply

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