Monday, February 6, 2012

Short Sharp Science - Contador stripped of Tour de France title

Jamie Condliffe, reporter
UPDATE: The Court of Arbitration for Sport has handed Alberto Contador a backdated two-year cycling ban and stripped him of his 2010 Tour de France title.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE (30/09/2010):
Alberto Contador, winner of this year's Tour de France, is the latest in a long line of cyclists to have tested positive for a banned substance.
Contador's press officer stated this morning that the cyclist "had tested positive for clenbuterol during a rest on the Tour in July", the BBC report.
The drug is a decongestant and bronchodilator, which increases the aerobic capacity of the body by allowing more effective oxygen transportation. It also increases metabolic rate, and helps shed fat and build muscle.
As race leader, Contador was tested regularly during the Tour. The big question, of course, is did he deliberately and knowingly take the drug?
The particular test in question was performed on a sample taken in Pau, the day before what was arguably one of the most important stages of the race.
The concentration of clenbuterol found in Contador's urine was, according to the BBC and The Guardian, 50 picograms. That's actually 400 times less than anti-doping laboratories accredited by the World Anti-doping Agency must be able to detect.
Now, the International Cycling Union (UCI) must decide what this means for Contador's future, as well as whether they should strip him of his Tour win. Further scientific investigation is necessary, the UCI says.
Contador is adamant that he didn't take the drug intentionally. "It is a clear case of food contamination," he told a news conference in his home town, Pinto, near Madrid today, blaming contaminated meat for the presence of clenbuterol in his system. "He said the meat was brought across the border from Spain to France during a rest day during the Tour. Contador said he ate the meat on 20 July and again on 21 July," report The Guardian.
Though Contador's protestations may sound to some like an elaborate excuse, there is evidence that supports his claims. The US Food Safety and Inspection Service report that clenbuterol is sometimes illegally included in animal feed to help promote muscle growth.
Despite the fact that the quantity of the drug in Contador's system is almost vanishingly small, the UCI must now decide whether even a low concentration might have provided the cyclist with a physiological benefit over his competition.

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