Ghent lab chief dismisses Contador’s calls for Clenbuterol cut-off

Peter Van Eenoo explains ‘long tail’ test for banned drug

Peter Van Eenoo, the head of the Ghent anti-doping laboratory has dismissed Alberto Contador’s calls for a threshold limit for determining if an athlete is positive for the banned substance Clenbuterol.

Contador was declared positive for a small quantity of the drug in a test carried out during the second rest day of this year’s Tour de France. The test was carried out by the laboratory in Cologne Germany, which detected just 50 picograms/millilitre (or 50 parts per trillion) - 40 time less than what the anti-doping laboratories accredited by WADA must be able to detect.

While some banned drugs like the steroid nandrolone have limits above which an athlete's sample must test in order to bring about an "adverse analytical finding", any amount of Clenbuterol, no matter how minute, if found in a sample, can cause a rider to be suspended.

Contador has denied deliberately taking Clenbuterol, which can be used to enhance muscle mass and help weight loss, claiming the positive was caused by eating contaminated meat, brought to the Tour de France by a friend.

Speaking to the Reuters news agency, Van Eenoo, the head of the Ghent laboratory, said that unlike cocaine, Clenbuterol breaks down very slowly in the body and the effect is long term, hence the decision by the anti-doping authorities to look for tiny traces of the drug.

“Cocaine is very different (to Clenbuterol), because while it has an enormous immediate effect, if you tested me in two days you probably wouldn’t detect it. That’s why cocaine is only banned in competition, and why we don’t even report it if it’s only there in small quantities. Clenbuterol, though, is always prohibited,” Van Eenoo said.

“If I took a lot and you tested me an hour later, I might still have a lot in my system, but if you tested me in four or five days, it might be there in small quantities and you wouldn’t know what effect it had had.”

Van Eenoo accepted that it was possible, as Contador has claimed, for positive Clenbuterol tests to come from other sources. However he reaffirmed that under the WADA code, athletes are ultimately liable for substances they ingest and that are found in their bodies.

Contador must prove that his positive test for Clenbuterol was caused by eating contaminated meat but likely can only receive only a 50% reduction in any eventual suspension.

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