RadioShack's Fuyu Li has received the support of Dutch anti-doping expert Douwe de Boer as he attempts to clear his name of a positive doping control for asthma medication, Clenbuterol.
Li was provisionally suspended by the International Cycling Union and his team on April 22, after he was found positive for Clenbuterol in a control conducted at the Dwars Door Vlaanderen on March 23.
De Boer, a biochemist from the University Hospital Maastricht and former director of the WADA-approved laboratory in Lisbon, Portugal, said the levels of the drug detected in Li's sample are below those that would be expected in the case of intentional injestion.
"Laboratories must be able to find 1.00 ng/mL, while a normal threshold value is considered to be 2.00 ng/mL. The value of 0.05-0.10 ng/mL that was found in Fuyu Li's body points clearly in the direction of a contamination. On top of that, such a low dose would not help his performance in any way," said De Boer, in a statement issued by Li this week.
Li faces disciplinary action from the Chinese cycling federation. The 31 year-old has asserted that he never knowingly took the medication, which is banned in and out of competition due to its off-label uses as a weight-loss drug and anabolic agent.
"I have no idea how the Clenbuterol came into my body. All I know is that I have never taken doping in my entire career. My role at team RadioShack was one of a humble helper, nothing more," he said.
"I am 31 years old and I know I could not move up to a leading role in the team, I was just extremely honoured to be selected for this team and tried to do my job right. I have won the China Games a couple of times, which makes me a famous sportsman in China. I have a lot to lose in China and nothing to prove any more in my country. There was no incentive for me to do something crazy like doping and I did not do that. Not now, not at any other moment in my career."
De Boer added that the low levels found in Li's sample could be an indication of contaminated food stuffs. "The extremely low value points in the direction of a contamination. Clenbuterol contaminations exist in food supplements and in meat. Clenbuterol is often used to improve the visible quality of meat," he said.
"There have been several scandals in China, with Clenbuterol poisoning of people by eating heavily contaminated meat. My best guess would be that something like this caused Fuyu Li's positive. I hope he will be treated fairly in his process in China."
Despite providing a possible scenario for Li's positive test, De Boer said it would be difficult to determine exactly how the drug had entered his system.
"Doping rules are saying that a rider himself is held responsible for irregularities in his body. It will be hard, if not impossible to really prove how he did get the Clenbuterol in his urine, though. Again, the poor food safety in China would be my best educated guess," he said.