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WADA: Clenbuterol Level Due To Be Set

Jun 14, 2011  - Craig Lord

World Anti-Doping Agency lab experts will meet next week to consider changing its rules regarding clenbuterol, the drug at the centre of contaminated meat allegations in China and for which cyclist Alberto Contador tested positive for at last year's Tour de France.

Contador said he inadvertently consumed the substance in contaminated meat and was cleared by the Spanish cycling federation earlier this year. An appeal by WADA and the International Cycling Federation to the Court of Arbitration for Sport is to be heard in August.

In similar cases, five Mexico football players tested positive and were removed from a tournament last week. Mexico leapt on the China contamination claims and also blamed meat products.

"I've personally reviewed several of these cases and I think we've got a way forward that makes a lot of sense and we want to discuss with our experts," WADA science director Olivier Rabin said at a WADA symposium today.

Under current WADA rules, any amount of clenbuterol results in a ban. The likely way forward is that an allowable level is set for the substance in future, one that would show deliberate intake or trace contamination through problems in the food chain. 

"That could be one of their recommendations," Rabin said. "You may say there is a value above which we know it's doping. There may be a value under which we would say you need further investigation, so it could be classified as an atypical finding. Or it could be classified as a typical finding which means it's a result that deserves further consideration in a certain context, including previous results from the athlete or future results from the athlete."

Teams heading for the world swimming championships in Shanghai next month are taking precautions and advising swimmers to eat only food that is provided by team hotels. Team doctors from some teams are working with hotels on the issue of the food supply chain.

Asked about the swim event, Rabin said that it was for organizers and swimming governing body FINA to make sure athletes are given well-checked meat, as was the case at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

"Things went extremely well because they have taken appropriate measures to make sure that the food was well controlled before it was given to the athletes," Rabin said. "So there are ways and means to prevent this kind of risk of meat contamination."

The symposium in Rome also considered challenges in detection of hormonal doping, such as EPO. Rabin noted that there are 120 different types of EPO today. 

Among breakthroughs: a test for HGH that may come into use by London 2012 that catches anything up to 10 days after the substance has been administered, an improvement from the current 2-3 days.