The World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) refuted reports that its scientific experts may call for instituting a threshold level for the substance clenbuterol, for which Alberto Contador tested positive in the 2010 Tour de France.
WADA's scientific director Oliver Rabin told the Associated Press yesterday that the threshold could be one of the recommendations made by the panel at a meeting in Montreal next week.
The agency issued a press release today clarifying that clenbuterol remains a prohibited substance without a lower threshold for a positive test. It also said "at present there is no plan to introduce a threshold level for clenbuterol".
Contador argued that his positive test was the result of contaminated food, and several other athletes around the world have made the same claim after being found with the substance in their system.
Contador's attorneys pointed to the minuscule level of the drug in the positive samples - an amount 400 times lower than the required detection level - and argued that it was not intentional doping and at too low a level to be performance enhancing.
The test was somewhat controversial in that laboratories normally would not detect clenbuterol at the level found in Contador's sample, but the German laboratory which did the analysis used machines which could find very small amounts of the drug.
Contador's case, and the subsequent decision by his Spanish federation to drop disciplinary action in the matter, has been problematic for the sport. WADA and the UCI have appealed the decision in a hearing set for August, but the Spaniard continues to race and win all the while standing to lose his current results should the appeal succeed.
WADA maintained its stance that any amount of the drug found could constitute a positive test, but conceded that there may be cases where food contamination is actually the cause for a test, but added, "each case is different and all elements need to be taken into account".
The WADA code already has provisions for such cases, and allows for reduced sanctions or a warning of an athlete can adequately explain how a prohibited substance got into his or her system.
Regarding the reports that the experts could recommend a threshold, WADA said, "No decision will be taken at this meeting and any recommendation will then be reviewed and discussed at the WADA Health, Medical and Research Committee in view of the preparation of the 2012 List.
"The power to take a decision and to adopt the 2012 List is vested to the WADA Executive Committee, composed equally of the Sport Movement and Governments, that will meet in September."