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Newspaper reports WADA unable to confirm Alberto Contador’s tainted beef claim

Spain’s El Pais newspaper reported Wednesday that investigators from the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) were unable to find evidence to support Alberto Contador’s claim that contaminated meat was responsible for his positive doping test.

The Tour de France champion was provisionally suspended following a positive test for a tiny amount of clenbuterol, a banned weight loss/muscle-building drug.

The Spanish rider has claimed that the positive result, which followed a doping test during the Tour de France in July, was the result of eating contaminated meat.

But a report by WADA obtained by the newspaper El Pais said its experts visited the butcher’s shop in northern Spain where the meat was purchased and the slaughterhouse that supplies it, and found no evidence of clenbuterol in any of its products.

“None of the inspections, none of the tests on samples of meat found traces of clenbuterol, a banned drug used to fatten cattle quickly,” El Pais said.

The report also cited a European Union study from 2008 in which experts tested 300,000 meat samples but found evidence of the possible use of clenbuterol in only one of those.

“Obviously, farmers who cheat will never slaughter their illegally fattened cattle until about 20 days after the last dose of clenbuterol for two reasons: to avoid being caught by checks on the meat and to allow the anabolic steriod to have its full fattening-up effect,” the WADA report said, according to El Pais.

(Editor’s note: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Clenbuterol is a growth-promoting drug that can increase the ratio of muscle to fat in livestock.)

The paper said the International Cycling Union (UCI) delivered the WADA report to the Spanish cycling federation (RFEC), which is to decide whether to sanction the rider.

Contador’s lawyers immediately rejected the report.

“The legal team of Alberto Contador strongly disputes the information published today in some media about the contents of the report sent by the UCI to the Spanish cycling federation,” the cyclist’s press team said in a statement.

“After careful study of the documentation sent by the UCI, which contains the report of a detective agency hired to trace the origin of the meat, it is not possible to determine that the meat was not contaminated,” it said.

“In the documentation sent (to the RFEC) there is no evidence that the WADA has made any kind of analysis of the butcher in question, much less of slaughterhouses which are mentioned.”

The statement went on to challenge the assumption that farmers are more cautious than athletes when it comes to testing.

“The UCI report also argues that would be absurd that farmers do not comply with the qualifying period before slaughter to avoid the ‘positive’ of their animals because they risk to being denounced. Such reasoning is fallacious, because if so we have to admit also that it is absurd that any athlete uses a banned substance, especially because sport’s controls are much more abundant than livestock and are used much more sophisticated detection methods as those used in veterinary medicine.”

El Pais commented that the WADA report “is the main problem that Contador must overcome to prove his innocence, as his entire defence rests on the involuntary ingestion of the meat contaminated with clenbuterol in such a tiny amount that it had no effect on his performance.”

If suspended for two years, the 27-year-old has threatened to quit the sport.

Contador, who also won the Tour de France in 2007 and 2009, signed a two-year contract with the Saxo Bank team in August.

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