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Could 'cow cocaine' save Alberto Contador?

A warning issued by the World Anti-Doping Agency to participants in the Pan American Games could strengthen the cyclist’s case ahead of his appearance at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Contador competed in this year's Tour de France.
Contador competed in this year's Tour de France.
Image: Laurent Cipriani/AP/Press Association Images

THE FARMING HABITS of Mexican cattle ranchers could turn out to have a significant impact on the outcome of the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s most high-profile case.

Last year, Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador was banned from competition by the Union Cycliste Internationale after he tested positive for the slimming agent clenbuterol. Though the three-time Tour de France champion was later cleared of the offence by his national federation, the decision was appealed by both the UCI and the World Anti-Doping Agency.

The 28-year-old’s case has yet to be heard by CAS, but developments elsewhere in the world of sport could well improve the odds of his exoneration.

WADA has issued a warning to participants in the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, warning them about possible clenbuterol contamination in Mexican beef products. Supported by the experiences of a number of athletes, the institution believes the threat of inadvertent contamination to be significant.

“WADA has subsequently received compelling evidence… that indicates a serious health problem in Mexico with regards to meat contaminated with clenbuterol. This is a public health issue that is now being addressed urgently by the Mexican Government.”

“In the meantime, WADA’s message to athletes travelling to Mexico remains the same, and that is to exercise extreme caution with regards to what they eat and where they eat.”

Mexican cattle ranchers have become enthusiastic proponents of clenbuterol in recent months. Known locally as “cow cocaine,” the contaminant acts as means of lowering the fat content of cattle.

Though significant questions regarding the rider’s motivation, the source of any possible contamination and his training habits remain, the declaration could be interpreted as a partial substantiation of Contador’s initial claim that his positive test resulted from the ingestion of contaminated meat.

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