Tour de France - Contador 'would have been crazy' to dope

Thu, 14 Oct 20:14:00 2010

Three-times Tour de France champion Alberto Contador would have been "crazy" to risk taking the anabolic agent clenbuterol during this year's race, a leading British sports lawyer has claimed.

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The Spaniard has been provisionally suspended by the International Cycling Union after testing positive for a small amount of the performance-enhancing drug during this year's race.

Contador's assertion that he ingested the substance from tainted beef was dismissed by World Anti-Doping Agency director general David Howman, who said on Wednesday that similar explanations had been rejected in the past.

But Mike Morgan, who has represented major National Olympic Committees at the past two Olympic Games and appeared before the Court of Arbitration for Sport, has claimed it was indeed possible that contaminated meat had been responsible.

"The fact that it's such a small amount does corroborate his claim that it came from contaminated meat," Morgan said.

"If you are going to take clenbuterol to have any lasting effect you would have taken a much higher amount than was detected in his sample."

Morgan said if a rider was going to take clenbuterol to enhance his performance he would be unlikely to do so in the middle of the Tour de France when he knew he was going to be tested every other day.

"It stays in your system for as long as three weeks, even more," he said. "It's just not a chance you would take. It wouldn't make any sense, it would be crazy."

Morgan told delegates that clenbuterol, which strips fat and builds muscle in humans, had been used in farming communities around the world for the same reason.

"It is used to promote the growth rate in cattle, pigs and chicken. By stripping away the fat of the animal, clenbuterol also increases the leanness of the meat," he said.

"The fact that it may be banned does not mean farmers are not using it. It's an issue which anti-doping authorities know very little about and about which they should educate themselves."

Morgan said in addition to tainted meat there had been reports of contaminated milk in Turkey and contaminated water in Portugal. He said the United States had shipped 11,000 kilos of lean meat to the 2008 Beijing Olympics because of concerns over local produce.

He added that he believed the spate of recent clenbuterol positives was due to an incredibly sensitive test and said anti-doping authorities needed to devise a test which showed if the drug had been deliberately ingested.

"I don't believe it has suddenly become popular among athletes, I don't also believe it is suddenly being used more in the farming industry," he said.

"Clenbuterol stays around the system quite a long time, it takes a long time to clear and so if athletes know they are going to be regularly tested it wouldn't be their substance of choice.

"It is possible that athletes cheat, of course they do, but is it possible that it's come from milk, or beef, or pork, or water in an extreme case?

"That's the difficulty. And proving it, for athletes, is a real difficulty."

Reuters

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