Contador doping case: contaminated meat from South America?
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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Contador doping case: contaminated meat from South America?

by Samuel Morrison at 12:57 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
'It's more than possible,' says Spanish farmer

Spaniard Alberto Contador faces a possible two-year ban and risks losing his Tour de France title for testing positive for Clenbuterol. His claim that the drug came from contaminated meat, however, received support today from farmer Ramón Riestra.

Riestra, board member of Asturias youth farmers association, said Spain and other European countries import meat from South America, where farmers may use Clenbuterol. He believes the meat team Astana bought for Contador in Irún, Spain, during the Tour de France could have originated from a Mercosur country: Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

"It's more than possible," Riestra told Spain's AS newspaper. "Look, one of the ports where most of this meat is unloaded is Saint-Jean-de-Luz [France], a French city that's very close to Irún [15 kilometres]. It's not strange that some butcher shop in Irún provided this meat."

Contador tested positive for Clenbuterol on July 21 at the Tour de France. He announced the positive control on September 30, two months after he won the Tour de France by 39 seconds ahead of Luxembourg's Andy Schleck. The International Cycling Union (UCI) announced that same day that it provisionally suspended and November 8, asked the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) to open a disciplinary hearing.

Clenbuterol helps breathing and weight loss. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) lists it, at any level, as a banned substance. Contador's urine sample revealed 50 picograms or 0.000 000 000 05 grams per millilitre.

It also produces lean beef, but European Union has banned its use since 1996. It controlled 83,203 animal samples in Europe between 2008 and 2009 and only sample was contaminated, and it was not from Spain.

"We have to go through three controls a year," said Riestra. "They take blood from all our animals. Everything has to be right, and we're at a disadvantage to the Mercosur countries, where they have between 600 to 700 million heads of beef. We told the authorities that they were headed for trouble, but they're city people that have no idea of agriculture or ecology.

"This is a business, and what they're [the Mercosur countries - ed.] most interested in is importing to Holland and especially, to France, which after the United States has the biggest meat-processing industry in the world."

Riestra explained that the European Union signed an agreement with Mercosur to import 20 million tons of meat in three years to 27 European countries. In Spain, he said, imports a minimum of two million tons. The imported meat also has to pass the European Union's controls.

"I'd like to see those controls. It's very easy. They send a proper first batch and, after the controls, the bulk of the lot. Or they fix it with a bribe. I have a relative who was a health inspector and he told me that there wasn't anything to do."

Riestra added that he raced the Paris-Nice with Eddy Merckx and many times with Luis Ocaña.

"Contador is only a scapegoat," he said. "It makes me angry, because he seems like a good guy, and besides, I was a cyclist."

Besides Clenbuterol, the New York Times reported in October that plasticizers were also found in Contador's urine and they may indicate he had a blood transfusion. The analysis to test this link, however, is not yet approved.

(Quotes translated by


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