Friday, October 08, 2010

Clenbuterol and the Tour de France

When news of Contador's positive for clenbuterol initially broke, I expressed my surprise and dismay, and also incredulity that the Spaniard would dope with clen during the Tour de France. I accepted that there could be validity to his claim of food contamination, but refrained from suggesting a second possible scenario, the introduction of clenbuterol into his body via a contaminated transfusion. I stick by my initial statement that clenbuterol is a horrible drug and one that you would never use during the Tour - but I want to reiterate that I accept it's absolutely plausible that an athlete would dope with clen while not racing in hopes of slimming down to unnatural levels before a major competition - though in that case clen is only one of several substances that would have to be combined in a veritable weight-loss cocktail (thyroid hormone being one, and perhaps a sleep-aid like Stilnox being another).

I still don't believe that Contador doped with clenbuterol during the Tour de France, and I hope that he can answer the five questions we previously identified here, and explain satisfactorily how the drug entered his body. Unfortunately, that seems less-likely now with this allegation coming from an unnamed source close to the Astana team, as reported by VeloNation:

"Belgian magazine Humo has published claims from an individual with the Astana team, who alleges that Alberto Contador used Clenbuterol after the Criterium du Dauphiné as part of a weight-loss treatment. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity, claims that the Spaniard had blood extracted between that race and the Tour when, crucially, traces of the banned product were still in his system.

“He had a transfusion performance after the Dauphiné Libéré [Criterium du Dauphiné], and the blood still contained a little bit of clenbuterol from a just-finished slimming treatment,” Humo reported the insider as saying.

“In the Dauphiné Libéré, Contador was still a little overweight. Ordinary people do not see that, but there was still a pound or two to shed. Clenbuterol is used to get rid of the last kilos while, at the same time, to ensure that you do not lose muscle mass - or, in the best case, even gain a little extra muscle mass.”

He described how the technique works, saying that the substance is used in combination with another
“You have to use it in combination with T3 [Triiodothyronine]. This is a thyroid hormone that helps in the digestion of fats. Then you have more rapid effect with a smaller dose of Clen. And the smaller the dose, the smaller the chance that you get caught.”

Contador finished second overall in the Dauphiné, but appeared to be below his usual strength there. He was beaten by an impressive Janez Brajkovic (Team RadioShack), who finished 1’41 ahead at the end of the event. Contador was only sixth behind Brajkovic in the time trial and was unable to drop his rival on the crucial stage to Alpe d’Huez, although he won the sprint to the line..."

And as an aside, in the same report the anonymous source claimed that doping via transfusions continues as before, much like Bernhard Kohl alleged, when he said it was not possible to win the Tour de France if doping was still endemic. VeloNation continues:

"The biological passport is being used as a deterrent to prevent riders from doping. While it has made it more difficult to beat the system, the Astana source told the magazine that some riders continue to manipulate things at a lesser level.

“Of course,” he said, when asked if transfusions continue. “But it’s in small doses of 150cc. Previously, riders during the Tour used two, three big bags of blood, from 400 to 500 cc. Now they cannot afford to, because of the biological passport and the sudden fluctuations in blood levels that occur.”

Sigh. I love this sport, I really do, and I'm sorry for my role in perpetuating the doping problem, but darn, if it's proven that Contador doped (and by proven, I mean there's a CAS ruling that closes the door on any appeals), then maybe that will be the nail in the coffin that will get me out of this trance and help me see the world through lenses other than a cyclist's Oakleys.

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