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Michael Rogers, back to racing, warns others about clenbuterol risks

After serving a provisional suspension and finally being cleared, Rogers says the clenbuterol issue is a complex one

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ANS, Belgium (VN) — Michael Rogers returned to racing on Sunday in Liège-Bastogne-Liège after sitting out a provisional doping ban and finally being cleared. He said he would warn other athletes about visiting China, where he tested positive for the banned drug clenbuterol.

“I don’t know if the UCI should have races in China. That’s a good question, a very valid question,” Rogers said in Liège. “I’d advise athletes to have extreme caution! My advice would be to stay away from meat products.”

Rogers raced the Tour of Beijing in October and tested positive for clenbuterol five days later, after winning the Japan Cup. He blamed the meat he ate while in China.

China and Mexico are noted hotspots for clenbuterol contamination. Two years ago, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) warned athletes to eat only in restaurants approved by the event organization or their federations. The UCI went a step further in January, telling national federations to warn its cyclists not to eat meat when in those countries.

“I’d be very nervous to race there again,” Rogers said. “I’d be on a vegetarian diet if I returned. Absolutely. If you look at the latest studies on clenbuterol, I’d advise a vegetarian diet.”

WADA considers athletes positive if clenbuterol appears in their anti-doping test, and puts the responsibility of explaining the finding on their shoulders.

Alberto Contador tested positive for the drug during the 2010 Tour de France and lost his title as a result. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled that the substance likely came from contaminated product but still gave the Spaniard a ban.

Contador had 50 picograms per milliliter in his system. Critics have argued that WADA should establish a threshold.

“Through my experience, I was able to see how complicated it is,” Rogers said. “It’s not an easy subject. If it was, there would already be a limit on it. I don’t know — it’s up to the experts. I have a very small understanding of it.”

Rogers has admitted to working with banned trainer Michele Ferrari in the past. He said he understands some followers may doubt the findings in his and others’ cases and assume the worst, as clenbuterol has been shown to help weight loss and increase aerobic capacity.

“It’s easy to jump to that conclusion without knowing the details,” he said. “A lot of people compare cases, but it’s hard to do. The experts even have a hard time understanding it, let alone the people. Smarter people have big problems resolving it and just have to judge every case separately.”

The UCI cleared Rogers on Wednesday, ending his four-month provisional suspension. Tinkoff-Saxo immediately named him to its team for Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He already has his sights set on racing the Giro d’Italia next month.

“Why not race the Giro? Once you know how to swim you can always jump into the deep end,” Rogers said.

“We only decided to come here in the last moment. The ultimate goal is to get back to the Tour de France. It’s certainly still possible. I haven’t missed a day of training.”