7 July 2015

Mexico bans red meat to avoid Gold Cup clenbuterol positives

The Federación Mexicana de Fútbol Asociación (FMF) has banned the national team from eating red meat for two weeks, in order to avoid any clenbuterol positives at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which takes place from today until 26 July in the US. “Aptly, the FMF made the decision that as the tournament is not in Mexico, red meat should not be consumed from 12 to 14 days before the competition”, said Mexico’s team Doctor, Gerardo Aguilar, in a press conference ahead of the tournament.

Mexico lost five players during the 2011 Gold Cup, which it won, due to positive tests for clenbuterol – Guillermo Ochoa, Edgar Duenas, Francisco Rodriguez, Antonio Naelson and Christian Bermudez. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) later dropped an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against the FMF’s decision not to sanction the players. ‘WADA has subsequently received compelling evidence from a FIFA study at the U17 World Cup in Mexico that indicates a serious health problem in Mexico with regards to meat contaminated with clenbuterol’, read a 2011 statement. ‘This is a public health issue that is being addressed urgently by the Mexican government’.

Clenbuterol is often used in cattle to keep meat lean, but is also thought to promote muscle growth and weight loss in humans, therefore is banned under Section S1.2 of WADA’s 2015 Prohibited List, which refers to ‘other anabolic agents’. As in the European Union, Mexico does have legislation forbidding the use of clenbuterol in livestock due to its active effect on humans, however it is understood that the ban is sometimes ignored by unscrupulous farmers.

“The issue of clenbuterol has nothing to do with the field of sport”, said the national team’s physiotherapist, Carlos Peçanha. “The sport world became the victim of another subject, which was totally alien to us. When we saw this, four years ago, we were the only national team that voluntarily tested our players before a competition, and when it was found, it came as a surprise to everyone […] We have benefitted sport because we opened and detonated an issue that really needed to be monitored.”

In 2010, cyclist Alberto Contador tested positive for clenbuterol. He was later cleared by the Spanish cycling federation (RFEC). This exoneration was overturned by the CAS in 2012, who decided that he should be stripped of his 2010 Tour de France victory and 2011 Giro d’Italia victory, and banned. “With clenbuterol, 2,000 picograms per millimetre of urine results in an active effect”, Dutch doping scientist Douwe de Boer told World Sports Law Report. WADA has not set such a threshold limit for clenbuterol – Contador was sanctioned after a finding of 50 picograms per millimetre of urine.

‘Clenbuterol is a prohibited substance and there is no threshold under which this substance is not prohibited’, reads WADA’s advice on the Prohibited List. ‘At present, and based on expert opinions, there is no plan to introduce a threshold level for clenbuterol. It is possible that under certain circumstance the presence of a low level of clenbuterol in an athlete sample can be the result of food contamination. However, each case is different and all elements need to be taken into account, along with the context of the case.’

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