The international sport media has been thrown into a fervor again today over the announcement of Alberto Contador’s positive drug test for clenbuterol. Unfortunately, he is not alone, as clenbuterol positives have been a recurring problem. The table below summarizes some of the other cases. We also highlight some of the things we have learned about clenbuterol and the realities of detecting it through drug tests.
What we have learned:
1) The best way to know if clenbuterol was deliberately used for doping purposes is to evaluate the amount present in the athlete’s urine.
2) Labs can detect minute amounts of clenbuterol on drug tests. As a result, even very small amounts of contamination in a supplement product can cause a positive drug test. The Jessica Hardy case is a perfect example. She was pulled out of the Beijing Olympics at the last minute and was sanctioned because very low levels of clenbuterol were found present in her urine. Clenbuterol contamination was discovered in a supplement she had been taking.
3) Athletes from China account for the most cases, but Spanish athletes have also been involved. Twenty years ago there was an epidemic of serious clenbuterol toxicity in Spanish persons – non-athletes. It was thoroughly investigated and traced to a farm that was using huge doses to bulk up cattle. Athletes were not involved. The Spanish authorities responded by establishing new controls, which remain in effect today.
Below is a table of clenbuterol drug test violations as summarized by Zack Bilgake on SportsNickel.com, http://sportsnickel.com/2010/09/30/contadors-clenbuterol-positive-and-what-it-really-means-for-tour-champ/:
|ATHLETE||NATION||SPORT||EVENT/DATE OF POSITIVE||RESULT OF POSITIVE|
|Djamolidine Abdoujaparov||UZB||Cycling||1997 Tour de France/Stage 2 (July 6)||Retired|
|Xiong Guoming||CHN||Swimming||out of competition test in 1999 (March 8 )||3-year suspension|
|Wang Wei||CHN||Swimming||out of competition test in 1999 (March 8 )||3-year suspension|
|Mariano Puerta||ARG||Tennis||2003 ATP Viña del Mar (February 12) *ARGUED FOOD CONTAMINATION||9-month susp. + $5600 fine|
|Zhou Jie||CHN||Swimming||out of competition test in 2005 (Sept 6) *ARGUED FOOD CONTAMINATION||2-year suspension|
|Karol Beck||SVK||Tennis||2005 Davis Cup semi v. Argentina (Sept 25)||2-year suspension|
|Anzhelika Gavrilova||KAZ||Speed skating||positive test before 2006 Olympics (Jan 4)||1-year suspension|
|Mitchil Mann||AUS||Weightlifting||2 positive samples in 2006 (Oct 30, Nov 3)||2-year suspension|
|Ouyang Kunpeng||CHN||Swimming||tested positive before 2008 Olympics (July 1) *ARGUED FOOD CONTAMINATION||lifetime ban|
|Jessica Hardy||USA||Swimming||2008 U.S. Olympic trials (July 4) *TAINTED NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENT/ADVOCARE||voluntary Olympic withdrawal/1-year suspension|
|Reni Maitua||AUS||Rugby||positive test by ASADA (May 20/2009)||2-year suspension|
|Tong Wen||CHN||Judo||stripped of 2009 world title (May 10/2010) *ARGUED FOOD CONTAMINATION||2-year suspension|
|Li Fuyu||CHN||Cycling||In-competition test at 2010 Dwars Door Vlaanderen (March 24)||2-year suspension|
|Callum Priestley||GBR||Hurdles||tested positive February 2010 (Sept 5) *ARGUED FOOD CONTAMINATION||2-year suspension|