The Bust

The 2010 winner of the Tour de France has tested positive for a banned substance. Doping authorities have revealed Alberto Contador tested positive for clenbuterol on July 21. Clenbuterol is a bronchodilator—a stimulant used to treat asthma.

The defense has already spun into high gear. Dr. Douwe de Boer, an “independent expert,” has concluded that the clenbuterol must have come from contaminated meat. The concentration level of clenbuterol found in Contador’s system was at trace levels, meaning there hadn’t been enough in his system to aid his performance the previous day. However, Contador was also tested the two days prior to the positive test, on July 19 and 20. Tests from those days show no trace of clenbuterol.

Permit me a moment of suspicion: Are we really meant to believe that clenbuterol routinely contaminates meat but of the thousands of test samples cyclists give each year only Alberto Contador consumed enough contaminated meat to result in a positive test—and it just happened to occur during the Tour de France?


Even though we’re just finding out about this in the last week of September, Contador has known of the finding since August 24 and WADA has known even longer. It’s fair to ask: Why did it take so long for the news to come out? It didn’t take this long with Landis.

We have several possibilities to consider:

1) Contador is innocent. He just got really unlucky and ate something (maybe meat) that was accidentally tainted.

2) Contador really did use clenbuterol. The lab employed by WADA did crappy work and didn’t find clenbuterol that was in his system on July 19 and 20.

3) Contador is being framed. Someone tried to sabotage Contador by spraying an asthma inhaler on his food.

Of these three options, the one that would surprise me the least is #2. Contador would hardly be the first cyclist to use asthma medication to dope. But while #2 would be the least surprising explanation, I cannot say that I think #1 or #3 are out of the realm of possibility.

I’d really like to know why it took so long for the news to come out. There’s more to this part of the story than meets the eye. Was there some sort of effort at a coverup that only proved untenable after several weeks’ consideration?

This is bad for cycling. No matter what the reason, this is precisely the attention cycling doesn’t need. And while I want the truth to come out, no explanation can remove the black eye this event will leave. The horse is out of the barn: another Tour de France champion is positive for dope. That story line will follow this year’s Tour de France for good.

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  1. Janet D.

    Really wanted to believe Landis, but got fooled. I won’t be fooled again! Did Bjarne know of this situation when he signed Contador…?

  2. sophrosune

    Clenbuterol stays in the system a long time. It is also easily detectable. For these two reasons alone any self-respecting doper doesn’t bother with the stuff. Because Contador didn’t test positive for it throughout the rest of the race and when he did test positive it was at a level 400 times below the threshold for detection, it is probable that they can locate the exact time and source of the contamination.

    Whether the contamination defense will work is another question. Recently some riders have been using a contaminated-supplement defense that in at least one case found an acquital but later that was overturned by the CAS.

    Your question, Padraig, of why the delay in announcing this probably has to do with WADA and the UCI handling these announcements poorly in the past. A little cirumspection in these matters hardly seems a bad thing.

    The question I think that is interesting is whether intentionality can be a defense. If a substance is found in your system and you didn’t deliberately put in there, or worse, someone dosed your food or drink with it, are you still guilty? It would seem the rules say, yes.

    That would be a great pity and leave at least me with another sense of unfairness. BTW: While Landis has confessed to doping, I still tend to doubt whether they really got him on the one they busted him for. So, the blackeye continues not to be doping in the peloton, but the rigged and unfair system they have in place for rooting it out.

  3. Jason

    I wouldn’t be surprised if he was using it. But then again I wouldn’t be surprised it came from the claimed beef contamination, given the amount of drugs pumped into our food (Oddly that doesn’t stop me from overeating). I do find it sort of odd that Fuyu Li (RadioShack) also tested positive for it this year and also claimed it came from food. While I don’t keep abreast of all the ins/outs and whos/who of Pro cyclings dope allegations (who’s go the time??), I had never really heard this drug come up before. Now here is at least two this year (with the same excuse). Makes you feel like some of the guys in the peloton figured something out. I hope I’m wrong though, because I’m tired of all the dope stuff (as most of us our). But then again, I say that every time a rider gets busted.

  4. sophrosune

    Another curious part of this, that Contador raised in his press conference, is the amount is so small how would one even administer it? The amount is 50 picograms (or 0.00000000005 grams per ml). You can’t grind it up and sprinkle that amount in your coffee, and not have any appear the day before or the day after.

    And what you neglect to point out, Padraig, when you mention that Clenbuterol is bronchodilator—a stimulant used to treat asthma, is that is also an anabolic, and it is for this reason it is not used in the US. In other words, it can build muscle. I think we’re all familiar with the use of steroids in cattle to create larger animals.

    I think this is going to come down to a question of intentionality and I’m not sure Contador, or anyone else, is going to win with that defense. And that stinks.

  5. Lachlan

    Its a disaster for cycling and the Tour!

    Theres not real way of knowing, but these kind of cases do suggest accidental contamination – but that is irrelevant on two fronts:

    First: the doping authorities don’t tend to care, they have to take a “you’re responsible for what goes in your body” stance
    Second: The media in general don’t care.. its just another one after Landis, VIno, etc etc and at the same time the whole Lance circus is gearing up.

    Glad I’m not someone trying to secure sponsorship funds at the moment! Maybe thats why they delayed it… doing it earlier would have been in the middle of most treams agreeing final sponsorship deals for 2011. Where as now, most of the deposits are in with the UCI alread, right?

  6. randomactsofcycling

    Perhaps the sample being tested in a non-French lab has something to do with this taking so long to come to light?
    As much as I truly want to believe in AC, there are a few details that are bothering me with his ‘explanation’. Firstly, his history of allergies in the Spring and the fact that the medication detected is one administered for asthmatics – people known to be susceptible to allergies.
    The one other ‘theory’ that is really eating away at me has to do with the timing of the positive sample – the rest day before the decisive stage to the Tourmalet. Clenbuterol is a Steroid and Steroids are used for recovery. Ask any bodybuilder: steroids don’t make you bigger, they help you recover faster between workouts, so you can workout more often and therefore get bigger. Contador’s positive is from the rest day. Who’s to say he didn’t, just this once, screw up his timing a little bit, maybe take the incorrect dose of a masking agent and actually got caught?
    In the last couple of years, Contador has not been the same animal going up the Cols as he was during his first Tour win. The Climbers juice is EPO, which enhances the blood’s oxygen transporting capabilities. But everyone is looking for EPO these days. However in the last couple of years AC’s TT speed has really gone to another level. You need massive leg strength to be a Cancellara beater.
    I know this is simple science, but his performances in the last couple of years make sense to me now.
    I’m pissed off at the entire scenario, whether he is guilty or not.

  7. sophrosune

    @randomactsofcycling Are there known masking agents for Clenbuterol? What I know of the drug is that it’s extremely easy to detect (just look at the concentration they have him on), which tends to make me think there probably aren’t any good masking agents.

    As for the other speculation about his climbing ability over the last few years and the crackdown on EPO…sigh.

    Indeed this is terrible for cycling. Every possible scenario for Contador having cheated his way to wins over the last 3 years will be posited with new enthusiasm.

  8. amityskinnyguy

    This is total donkey dung. I wondered why I seemed to care less and less as the year wore on. I’ll stick to the spring classics thank you.

  9. J

    Thing is- by all accounts it was such a small amount (50 trillionths of a gram) that the likeliest source was in fact food contamination as has been known to happen when eating beef that’s been treated with the chemical.

    The real issue is whether or not Contador will lose the TdF title and receive a 2 year suspension. His B sample confirms the A result and as the UCI and WADA have been as of late, enforcing a strict zero-tolerance policy the only logical choice is to suspend Contador and remove his TdF title.

    If the UCI and WADA overlook this positive they’ll be overturning precedent they’ve previously established and opening the door for “food contamination” excuses for doping results of any kind that will have to be accepted.

    This is one of those crummy situations where one’s fervor to see the world in black and white had now come back to bite them in the ass.

  10. redcliffs

    As was reported by both the New York Times and ESPN (I mention them because they are so readily available), Clenbuterol is a common contaminant in supplements (why, I have no idea). Contador is not the first to claim Clenbuterol contamination, nor would he be the first to successfully use it as a defense — an American swimmer had her ban reduced from two years to one after proving that she ingested it through an otherwise legal supplement.

    I think the “your body is your responsibility” rule is important and I don’t know how the UCI can pass on Contador and still look others in the eye. Where’s the cut-off? How much is too much, how little is little enough? Nevertheless, I can’t really see how this leads to him intentionally taking the drug at therapeutic levels – as Sophrosune says, Clenbuterol is not a good choice for dopers, it is too easily detected (as is evident from being able to detect *1/400th* the minimum level).

    1. Author

      Everyone: Thanks for your comments. You bring up many important points.

      Sophrosune: Agreed. From everything I’ve read, clenbuterol is easy to detect and stays in the system for a (relatively) long time. It seems a stupid way to deliberately dope. Still, having read the entire transcript of the Landis appeal before CAS, I can say I learned for sure the labs don’t always do first-rate work even on seemingly simple stuff, so I can’t help but wonder what they might have missed in the tests from July 19 and 20.

      There are problems with the contaminated supplement defense. I’ll have to prepare a separate post on that issue and the underlying rule, which is called “strict liability.” In short, if it’s in your body, it’s your problem.

      RandomActsofCycling: I’ve found nothing about masking agents for clenbuterol on the Interwebs. There may be one, but it’s not widely known, that’s for sure. Bodybuilders are unconcerned with masking it.

      I’ve been doing some more reading on clenbuterol and am surprised the degree to which it is used as an anabolic agent. When considering the amount of clenbuterol in Contador’s system, people need to look at this with different eyes. Body builders often start a clenbuterol cycle at only 20 micrograms; I suspect cyclists would see benefits from a much smaller dosage.

      I would have thought that WADA would have set a threshold level for clenbuterol, the way they have set for many other drugs, that is, a point below which you are considered not to have tested positive.

      This is a particularly bad day for cycling. Mosquera has tested positive for a masking agent for EPO. Riccardo Ricco’s house has been raided and tablets of unknown composition seized and the homes of old teammates and his partner’s brother have been raided as well with products seized.

      My biggest single question is why the announcement was handled the way it was. The UCI and WADA threw Landis under the bus the moment they had the chance. Strict liability says Contador is guilty, period. Is it a good rule? That’s a separate question.

    2. Author

      Oh, and another thing: All the talk on this morning’s ride was Contador; there was zero mention of Cancellara winning his fourth TT title. Sad.

  11. Robot

    I am trying hard to remain agnostic here until more information comes out, but based on what we know now (not much), I’m inclined to agree with Sophrosune. Given the ease with which the drug is detected, I can’t see a motive to use it, especially when the race is already pretty well won. Further, the amount detected is so small as to be irrelevant to performance. I can’t see intentionality (not that that matters), but moreover, I can’t see actual cheating here.

    Clearly, this is not good for Contador or the sport in general. From my current vantage, I would say what happens next is ENTIRELY up to the UCI, and to a lesser extent ASO.

    VeloNews is saying that Contador is suspended already, which is a troubling idea, because it suggests that there is more information than we’re aware of.

  12. Robot

    Pierre Bordry has offered the possibility that Contador transfused on the rest day and that the blood he added was from a time he was using Clenbuterol, which explains why it didn’t turn up in previous tests.

  13. Robot

    Michel Audrun, one of the founders of the UCI’s Biological Passport system, thinks it’s contamination. The micro-dose detected doesn’t concern him at all, because it wouldn’t have had any substantive influence on Contador’s performance.

    This is all available at VeloNation.

  14. ring_offire

    Given that the finds occurred after the rest day, and given the trace amounts found, it’s likely he pulled a “Landis” on us and reinjected some of his own blood that he had stored weeks before when he was using the substance, or thought he had cleansed through his system prior to storing it. Either way, not good for the sport as we again are under the spotlight for having the sports’ most prestigious champion accused of cheating.

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  16. DonEye1

    Before everyone completely discounts this based on their grasp of the relative scale of a ‘picogram’ – let’s keep in mind that this amount is the volume present within the test sample, not the dosage that he took. The test sample this is being drawn from is a fraction of a vial of urine in this case, probably not much more than a drop. The amount in the urine surely represents a much larger presence that already exists and has been ‘processed’ by his body.

  17. DonEye1

    But the really tough thing for Contador is that Fuyu Li received a two year suspension for essentially the same amount – and even employed the exact same experts and defense. That precedent doesn’t seem to leave the UCI any other options here.

  18. Chris


    “Body builders often start a clenbuterol cycle at only 20 micrograms; I suspect cyclists would see benefits from a much smaller dosage.”

    20 micrograms is 20 millionths of a gram or 0.00002g

    50 picograms is 50 BILLIONTHS of a gram or 0.00000000005g

    A cyclist only needs 1/400,000 of the dosage? I’m unconvinced, especially given the relatively well established record of clenbuterol food contamination. I think A.C. deserves the benefit of the doubt here.

  19. Souleur

    The first thing I could think of after I dropped my coffee was ‘Floyd’ and ‘it was my beer’ not testosterone.

    Then as I read on in disbelief I saw the levels and the previous negatives. I submit that primarily the clenbuterol is a bronchodilator, based on the class of drugs it is, as an alpha agonist. I have never prescribed it and bet its not even available in the US, but will see. Clenbuterol would be great in mtn stages for obvious reasons, but I will have to look as to whether it is even a ‘pro-growth’ agent or not, as has been speculated. More later when I research a bit. Either way, if used as such, given half lifes and all, it is bad.

  20. David James

    I guess it is usually used for weight loss or to decrease fat by increasing metabolism. But the levels are so low, based on the half life alone there doesn’t seem a possibiity that he could have reached thereapeutic doses without being busted by an earlier test. Check my blog post for full analysis.

  21. pdx velo

    he re-infused dirty blood. I find it highly unlikely that only the leader of the TdF consumed dirty meat. Aren’t EU food standards light-years ahead of the US’s?

  22. Souleur

    Clenbuterol has a 1/2 life of ~38hrs. Typical dose therapeutically is 20mcgs daily, but athletes that are doping it may run up to 200mcg/day. I would expect if he were even using lower doses of it, it would be detected at a higher level than the trillionth fraction it was. The pharmokinetics and previous negative samples seem contrary to me, but hey, that is what it is.

    There are 2 other food contamination sitings, interestingly, both in Asia as far as i can see, each w/a group of several dozen, directly linked to bad meat.

    The saga continues.

    But, my man Spartacus drilled it today!

  23. sophrosune

    milli = one thousandth
    micro = one millionth
    nano = one billionth
    pico = one trillionth

    Yes, Padraig, 20 micrograms is small but 50 picograms is…a way smaller amount!

  24. randomactsofcycling

    Yes, why did the UCI announce the Mosquera positive the day they informed the athlete, but they gave Contador a month to organise a Press Conference? There is more to this…..

    1. Author

      Again, thanks everyone for your contributions. As has been mentioned in these comments and elsewhere, the 50 picograms is what we are to understand was present in the sample. That suggests there was a good deal more in his body. I’m by no means ready to string Contador up, but I’d really like to know more about how clenbuterol breaks down in the body … and just how sound the lab is that did the work.

      And yes, the example of Mosquera’s positive shows that the wheels of justice turn differently. Honestly, I’m surprised that a Spanish cyclist got such a raw deal; I thought WADA and the UCI reserved the bus tires for Yanks.

  25. mark

    Several have pointed out the blood transfusion explanation, which to me seems a likely fourth possibility.

    As a point of clarification, clenbuterol is not asthma inhaler. That’s albuterol. Different stuff, different effects. Clenbuterol is not administered as an inhalant but orally, and unlike albuterol, it can impact body composition.

  26. Randomactsofcycling

    Robot, it is interesting to read the different reactions to this athlete’s tests. Here is Australia we are absolutely trying to focus on the Road Worlds, but all the talk is Contador. Most are in disbelief, suggesting Contador should be given time to clear his name. A very different character, one Ricardo Ricco, is instantly guilty for a second time for ‘unspecified’ tablets that may turn out to be Panadol or Aspirin.
    I find myself increasingly cynical toward any defense these days and am disappointed in myself. But precedent has been proven to be a pointer toward Human Nature in so many cases that it is difficult to see any explanation as more than ‘spin’. The transfusion theory, to a previously self confessed ‘simple scientist’, seems plausible.

  27. Robot

    But doesn’t a transfusion only make sense if you see a jump in his hematocrit the next day? I buy a transfusion as a way for the Clenbuterol to arrive suddenly in his blood, but then his other values should also skew from previous tests, shouldn’t they?

    1. Author

      Robot: From what I’ve been learning about transfusions, at least from one well-placed source, they try to make it appear that as little as possible has changed. Plasma is added so that hematocrit doesn’t go through the roof.

      I think the transfusion theory has real legs. It’s the most plausible explanation in my mind.

  28. Alex Torres

    I´m picking on this contaminated food excuse used by his PR crew. It sounds preciselly measured and deliberately picked to spread this “benefit-of-doubt” vibe.

    It stinks (fittingly) of “something´s wrong” but at the same time it´s plausible, scientifically reasonable, easily understandable and thus supported – all in the exact measure. And hey, it´s classical!

    All may be cleared up soon, or maybe never. I´d bet that in decades to come, well´read it as today we read Merckx´s Giro scandal. Another great caught up in the ugly politics of cycling and tainted by doping allegations.

    Very smart.

  29. Michael

    I’ve already reached saturation point on this story/issue/evermore inflated soap opera.

    So let’s change subject and talk about some nice stuff for a change, you know, all the background noise that WOULD have made the top of the storyboard on any other day;

    1. Cancellara winning a 4th TT worlds
    2. Millar’s fantastic ride for 2nd
    3. Martin’s gutsy ride for 3rd
    4. Porte’s unlimited potential
    5. Cannondale stepping up big time and becoming co-sponsor of Liquigas for 2011.

    Everything else is just verbal diarrhea – wasting precious oxygen on an issue
    that will not be resolved by anyone discussing it ad nauseum.

  30. K

    I think the transfusion theory works as well. It’s far easier to wait and see how the race is panning out to determine exactly how much extra boost you need. Contador was under serious pressure coming into the end of the tour so he tops up. It also explains why so little clenbutenol was found in his system.

  31. cthulhu

    If the UCI plays by their own rules, Contador must be stripped of his Tour title. But they usually bend them as they like so don’t count on that. If he further can somehow get his meat contamination to be acknowledged as the truth he will not have to face a ban.
    There is no threshold for Clenbuterol because the human body cannot produce it, any traces found have come from the outside. Now it is up for the “experts” if it is an indication, maybe with others sample results, for blood doping and off competition doping with Clenbuterol or not.
    And why this is overshadowing the the worlds? Because the UCI tried to cover it up and did not inform the public over a month ago nor weeks ago as they had the confirmation of the B-sample.

  32. sophrosune

    @cthulhu I am not so sure the rules are quite as black and white as you and I thought. I think the Contador camp are going to play on WADA’s “Minimum Required Performance Level (MRPL)” rule. While there may not be any threshold for the amount of Clenbuterol, there is this MRPL issue. If Contador couldn’t have gained an advantage from it, there is some possibility for it to be dismissed.

    To be honest, I don’t thing the governing bodies kept their mouths shut on ths long enough, which is contrary to this cover-up notion. If the science or the investigation was still not concluded, then don’t say anything until it is.

  33. todd k.

    Cthulhu and Sophrosune: Doneye1 makes a valid comment regarding Fuyu Li above. The defense (meat contamination) is the same, the levels in his samples were likewise too low to provide a performance benefit and yet the punishment was doled out under the notion of strict liability on the part of the athelete (i.e. it doesn’t matter how it got there; its presence alone is warrant for suspension). This makes it difficult for the UCI to do anything in a different manner with respect to Contrador lest they appear to in fact have different rules for different cyclists based on random political alliances within the peloton. It also undermines any defense Contrador can provision (or arguably makes it irrelevant).

    Of course this is the UCI we are talking about….

  34. Souleur

    Here are a few things I have learned about the clenbuterol in my few hours of metanalysis and something we should keep in mind to keep it all in context, because it really helps us speak intelligently on the matter.

    The clenbuterol is orally administered, not inhaled, good point for those that made that
    Typical dosings are 20mcg (microgram=1/1000 mg and a mg is 1/1000 of a gram, thus 1/1 millionth of a gram).

    Contador was found w/50 pico-gram on day 1
    20 pico-gram on day 2
    trace on day 3 of his positive findings, reproduced on the B samples.

    It is primarily used as a stimulant, as a class of drugs for bronchodilation/asthma treatment but with the noted side effects of increased fat to muscle distribution due to its stimulant properties; thus increased body temp/metabolism, increased BP, fat catabolism.

    It takes at least 2 wks for this to be seen in an effect in a person.
    It is used 2 wks on, 2 wks off for optimal outcome in the doper, so that adrenergic (adrenaline/nervous system) receptors are not down-regulated or ‘lessened’

    The 1/2 life is biphasic, it goes up in 2 phases, at 8 hr and at 38hr. For practical purposes most recognize the prior, because this determines both uptake of the drug in the body and elimination.

    It is highly metabolized in the liver but unlike most drugs w/first pass metabolizm it is approximately 75% bioavailable after 1st dose.
    -Now, here are the variables in play:
    -Body weight of the person
    -Amount of meat consumed
    -what amount was given to the animal pre-slaughter
    -What is the amount of clenbuterol in the meat consumed, because the type of meat is variable.

    Clenbuterol does not change w/cooking.

    Studies have demonstrated based on 60 kg individual what it would take to cause ‘food contamination w/clenbuterol’. Assuming
    that the bioavailability of clenbuterol in humans
    is roughly 75% (see above), a therapeutic dose
    (20 mcg) of clenbuterol could be achieved after the consumption
    of as little as 267 g (9.5 oz.) of product containing
    100 ppb parent clenbuterol; alternatively, if the
    product contained 500 ppb clenbuterol, toxicity might
    be observed after the consumption of only 53 g (1.9 oz).

    (Source: D. J. Smith
    periods of zero, three, or seven days
    administration of [14C]clenbuterol for seven days and preslaughter withdrawal
    Total radioactive residues and clenbuterol residues in swine after dietary
    J Anim Sci 2000. 78:2903-2912.)

    In animal studies, the drug was found up to 288hrs after the last dose.

    The urine/plasma ratio’s are relatively 1/100 ratio.

    I used the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health as a source for all the other information.

    So, this all hopefully helps us see more on clenbuterol.

    IMHO, its not a good doping drug due to half life, and is easily detectable in urine for a very long time. It would seem silly to me to choose this, IMHO.
    It is a good drug for dopers from the standpoint of outcomes, it works.

    The food contamination is very plausible.
    So is the autotransfusion as some have offered, this is a spot on possibility of off season dope, and a ‘forgotten’ skeleton in his closet if you will.

  35. MattyVT

    When Taylor Phinney got up Thursday morning I wonder if he knew that he was going to inherit the world’s hopes for the future of a clean sport?

    It would appear that both the UCI and Contador are claiming to have science on their side, but things have gotten so murky that it’s hard to apply common sense to the situation.

    There are some racers that I think really are innocent, like Bjorn Leukemans, who got a raw deal, fought it and came back. There are others like (drumroll, please) Riccardo Ricco or Vino who claim innocence, get rightly convicted and return unrepentant. Only time will tell which camp Contador belongs to.

    There is no upside.

  36. Souleur

    Of course, if the L’equipe article is correct, and they have linked a plastic di(2-ethylhexyl) as being detected which is only in blood transfusion bags, then Contador is screwed.

  37. Robot

    This piece would seem to refute the idea that they have already detected plastics in blood samples:|

    I also think it’s encouraging that he’s opened all his samples to retesting. If LA had done that years ago, we’d have gotten some closure (maybe) on his saga.

    1. Author

      The technique used to detect plasticizers in blood is certainly new, and Contador is the first rider we’ve heard of who tested positive for them. The question becomes how long they remain in the blood supply. If he received the alleged transfusion on the rest day, the day of his test, the previous samples wouldn’t show it. And if it lasts a short time, subsequent tests may not show it. It may be that his offer to retest old sample may just be a gambit based on the belief that they can’t come up with a second sample that would be positive.

      Clenbuterol ceases to an issue with the positive result for the plasticizers. Transfusions are against the rules and any indication that a transfusion was performed is equal to a positive doping test. If subsequent testing reveals the presence of the plasticizers, he’s done, clenbuterol or no.

  38. Robot

    My impression is that Contador is claiming his blood values will be consistent with his passport values, and so he’s offering that as a defense against transfusion.

    The real question, I think is, when do they have blood from? He got busted on a urine. If they have blood for the days in question, then it should be easy to see a variation from pre-rest day to post-rest day.

  39. nrs5000

    I don’t think anyone has mentioned this — under the rules, most of Contador’s intent defenses would have the effect of shortening the ban to a year, not avoiding sanction altogether.

  40. Hank

    Plasticizers are contained in legal IV bags for vitamins or hydration or even water bottles which pros suck on all day, every day.

    You would think though that by now Contador would have paid someone to track down the source of the meat. That should not be that difficult for someone with his resources. If a supplier was juicing his livestock illegally it likely will still be in the supply chain.

    If someone other then the UCI was to go back over Contadors blood samples with a fine tooth comb they would likely turn up more.

  41. cthulhu

    @hank: the bottles don’t contain softening agents because they are usually made of PE and that doesn’t need any. But the specific one that is supposedly found in his samples in a softening agent for PVC which is used for blood bags because PVC’s transparency.

  42. Hank

    cthulhu: does that not still leave IV bags for intravenous fluids or intravenous nutrition post race? – which are legal as far as I know. Contador has a perfectly plausible story. Considering his position he might get off as Armstrong did for contamination from “chamois cream”. Although maybe the rules are stricter now. I think the rule now is even if it was unintentional contamination, tough, you are held responsible for what is in your body. If it looks unintentional you get 1 year instead of 2.

    The doping is now so sophisticated that unless a rider screws up big time a real unequivocal – caught you dead to rights positive is rare. We are left with suspicious anomalies that can be explained away as not doping related.

    If he is suspended that will really suck for Specialized and Riis. Specialized had a golden season totally eclipsing Trek in pro racing.

    1. Author

      Hank: Cthulhu raises just the point I was just going to make: IVs are not permitted for any reason. The plasticizer in question can only enter your body through an IV and all IVs are considered part and parcel of doping. To WADA, plasticizer equals doping.

      A disqualification and suspension for Contador will really be a blow to the sport. Interestingly, Specialized will still retain the Tour winner, and while that’s great, no one wants to be sullied by a situation as this.

  43. Hank

    Sounds like there is a very good chance Contador is going down for this then. The UCI might have been willing to sweep this under the rug considering Contador’s position but with all the heat on the UCI now with the Armstrong investigation it would cause an uproar about favoritism and corruption.

    I thought Bruyneel would eventually wind up taking down all his former stars including Contador once he got nailed but it looks like Alberto will be busted before Lance and JB.

  44. Hank

    I jdid some googling on DEHP and IV’s and found this:

    PET bottles are used for water and soda and juice and pretty much every plastic beverage container. PET has been show to leach Bis(2-ehylhexyl)phthalate or DEHP.

    HDPE and polypropeline water bottles are available that don’t leach DEHP but there are likely still plenty of PET bottles out there and pretty much all the water bottles in supermarkets evidently use PET. So it’s likely we all have some level of DEHP. If you are constantly drinking from plastic bottles then more so.

    Second on the IV drip rules I see this on the WADA site: “2. Intravenous infusions are prohibited except for those legitimately received in the course of hospital admissions or clinical investigations.” But I have read about pros being rehydrated and receiving nutrition via IV after stages as a common permitted practice. Are you sure it’s not legal?

  45. cthulhu

    so far i know is DEHP not the classical agent for PET and so far i know usually not used, but surely traces can always be found thanks to production etc. But if that is true about the DEHP finding then according to the German news report the values are several hundred times above the threshold which i doubt can be achieve by drinking from PET bottles.
    As far as the other question goes I don’t know since when that is a prohibited method but it can easily have been legal in 90s.

  46. sophrosune

    Wow, I am amazed sometimes at how quickly we can speak authoritatively about an analytical technique that I’m sure few had ever heard of outside of a very select community before L’Equipe reported on it, and then speak dismissively to those who might question its capabilities. This technique hasn’t been validated, and I am sure even fewer know what is the obstacle that is keeping it it from being validated. I mean does anyone know what the analytical technique is? Is it chromotography or what? Can we get an expert on this one?

  47. Robot

    Let me try this on you: What if we say that the amount of Clenbuterol in Contador’s system was not sufficient to constitute performance enhancement during the Tour? What if we then say that, the possibility that the substance arrived in his system via a transfusion is only a possibility. None of the other tests made during his Tour performance turned up evidence of blood boosters or transfusions. So, even if, at some point, Contador used Clenbuterol, we can’t say when or how much, and so we haven’t properly caught him enhancing his performance. What if we said all that? What if we decided that we couldn’t prove something happened, and so forgot the whole thing and moved on?

    I don’t want the winner of the Tour de France to be a doper, but I also don’t want to tear down the sport because something might possibly have happened either. I want there to be proof, not just probability.

    That’s where I am right now, based on what I know, which is, admittedly, not very much.

  48. Hank

    Robot: Sounds reasonable and I think that is the finding the UCI would like to make but they are concerned about how it would look. After all they did not extend the same consideration to lesser riders like the Radio Shack Chinese pro.

  49. todd k.

    I agree with Hank.

    At the moment, the potential for the arbitrary application of the rules and preference to some athletes bothers me more than knowing if the doping violation really equates to enhanced performance. (Thinking Contrador vs Fuyu Li’s case, as well as the communication disclosure differences between Contrador vs Mosquera).

    If the rules are never to be applied equally to the athlete, then professional cycling is really more about creating exciting athletic based fictional narratives for our entertainment than true fair play sport. There is a place for this in our society and one example is called WWE. But up to this point, the UCI has been telling me that pro cycling is about fair play sport.

  50. Robot

    @todd k, et. al. – With all due respect to Fuyu Li, just because the UCI screwed up the application of the rules last time, doesn’t mean they ought to continue to do it, just to stay consistent, does it?

    I think it’s important to recognize that the rules and regulations have to stay a little bit fluid in order to maintain some common sense. Zero tolerance policies, in my experience, tend to be ineffective. The UCI needs to have the courage of their convictions, and the ability to use the rules to support those convictions.


  51. sophrosune

    @Robot As you may know, I have taken issue with some things Joe Lindsey has argued in the past over at the Boulder Report, but on this issue I think he is dead on and gives another angle to your line of thinking. I like how he ends his piece:

    “The authority of anti-doping officials is built on prudence and discretion and a respect for the rights of the athletes. To borrow from the rule of law, it’s the idea that it’s better to let 10 guilty men go free than to see one innocent man wrongly imprisoned.

    Strict liability flies directly in the face of that ideal. It’s time, if there ever was such, has passed. To do away with it means an end to clear, easy decisions. It means diving into the messy particulars of each case and trying to determine, in the real world, what happened. That won’t be easy. But if it was your career on the line, what would you want? Justice cannot be automated.”

    This position of WADA of “if it’s in you, it’s your own damn fault.” Is just a cop out from dealing with the sometimes complicated and sticky issue of whether these athletes have these drugs in their system intentionally, or whether they could have possibly derived any benefit from them.

    Justice cannot be automated. Damn right. And it’s time the system got fixed. If takes Contador to do it, fine. Better now than to let this continue on.

  52. todd k.

    Robot : My point isn’t that they should keep erroneous rules on the books. My point is that they need to treat all athletes the same with respect to how they apply and enforce the rules. Procedurally with respect to Fuyu Li’s case this likely means two things:

    Option 1:The UCI punishes Contrador to the same degree because all cyclists are equal under the rules and as the rules read when they freely participated in the game they broke the rules knowingly or not. If it is a bad rule, they should work with WADA to modify the rule as it will quickly become impossible to track variations between the two bodies if this becomes the new norm in the UCI. They can even seek to retroactively compensate each athlete after the rule change if they are that earnest to do so.

    Option 2: The UCI gives Contrador a break and then apply that same leniency to Fuyu Li along with compensatory damages (given that he has already paid some price and we they would now in essence be saying that was a bad decision). They should still formally rewrite the rules and should do so with WADA.

    I’m suspect that the UCI will do either. Their behavior is all over the board and it leaves me to suspect their motives at doing things for the right reasons. Even within hours the UCI broke protocol and confirmed disclosure that Mosquera violated an A sample without the B sample being tested. Contrador, we have since learned, was asked to be silent through that same period and the UCI chose not to disclose anything publically. At this point Mosquera’s case falls under an alleged violation without the B sample confirmation, yet the UCI not only confirmed that A sample violation, but a few days later McQuaid went one step further referenced Mosquera as part of his lambasting of the Spanish Goverenment. My take away from that: Contrador deserves benefit of doubt and time to consider a defense, Mosquera does not. But why?

  53. Michael

    Hello, my name is Thor. This past weekend our sport celebrated a grand event, a little something called the World Championship.

    It was a riveting race – those pesky Italians were very strong and did their best to make us all hurt. Those crafty Belgians as well, they were all over the front of the race. Nay, making the race.

    The outgoing World Champion, Cadel Evans, finished off a remarkable year as champion by further doing honor to his status as champion by racing aggresively. I thought for a long while in the last 2 laps that he just might manage to defend his title!

    In the end,the race came back together with only 3km to spare after over 260. As luck would have it, I won the race.

    Hi! My name is Thor! (waves frantically at the masses consumed by the dark side)

    I think I might do a pretty good job at this just like Cadel. Why don’t you come over, jump on the train (like i will for Garmin-Cervelo) and enjoy the ride? I know I will. See in a couple of months in the cold and dark of the North.

    Unless of course you continue to prefer to holiday in Spain. I hear it is supposed to be quite sunny, though it seems rather dark these days.

  54. puck monkey

    Don’t regular saline IV bags contain plasticizers?
    From Wikipedia
    “Some plasticizers evaporate and tend to concentrate in an enclosed space; the “new car smell” is caused mostly by plasticizers evaporating from the car interior.”
    Plasticizers are everywhere.
    I still think he added blood to his blood.

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