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Spanish athletes raise alarm on clenbuterol

A recent spate of clenbuterol positives has prompted Spain’s professional athlete’s association to raise the alarm over their collective fear of doping cases triggered by digesting tainted food.

Coming on the heels of the high-profile Alberto Contador case — which has opened the debate of clenbuterol and the possibility of a false positive from eating contaminated meat — representatives of the Asociación de Deportistas, led by ex-tennis star Emilion Sánchez Vicario, have formally approached Spain’s anti-doping agency about their concerns of competing beyond Europe.

The Spanish daily Sport published a copy of the letter Sánchez Vicario wrote to officials on November 30, asking them to clarify rules and offer some sort of protection against a false positive triggered by eating contaminated food.

The story reported that Javier Martín del Burgo, director of the Spanish anti-doping agency (AEA), vowed to take a challenge to the World Anti-Doping Agency to create some of universal minimum standard for detecting levels of clenbuterol. That would be a direct challenge to current WADA rules outlining “strict liability” — that if a substance is found in an athlete’s body, they athlete is responsible for it no matter how got it there.

Other than the obvious of sticking to a vegetarian diet while abroad, Sport reported that some Spanish athletes have even skipped competitions in South America for fear of contamination and a possible positive case.

Clenbuterol has been banned in Europe since the mid-1990s, but there have been several doping cases involving athletes who have competed beyond the European Union and later tested positive.

Earlier this month, Dutch mountain biker Rudy van Houts became the latest athlete to test positive for clenbuterol, this time after competing in Mexico in October.

Ukrainian-born German table tennis star Dimitrij Ovtcharov was cleared of clenbuterol charges by the German table tennis association after he claims he triggered a false positive after eating meat on a trip to China. That ruling is being challenged by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Contador, who claims he ate contaminated meat during a rest day late in the 2010 Tour de France, is awaiting a decision by the four-member competition committee of the Spanish cycling federation.

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