We May Have to Sample a Little of the Crow, Laced with Clenbuterol

According to this report from FIFA, more than 100 samples taken from players participating in this past summer’s U-17 World Cup, which was staged in Mexico, have shown traces of clenbuterol.

While only four of the samples showed concentrations higher than the prohibited level (ie., were actual positive tests for the substance), 109 of the 208 urine samples taken at the tournament—52.4%—contained traces of the drug.

Players from 19 of the 24 participating national teams submitted samples containing trace amounts of clenbuterol, according to the report.

Apparently, their Twitter was hacked.

Well. Okay then. Looks like it is possible for evidence of clenbuterol to turn up in your urine if you eat meat treated with the substance. (Unless the Mexican government is in cahoots with FIFA, or pulled one over on FIFA’s chief medical officer, Jiri Dvorak, which, given the track records of both entities, can’t be completely ruled out. But anyway, back to the crow.)

Clenbuterol is a beta-adrenergic agonist (not a steroid) that is sometimes used to boost the leanness and protein content of cattle, thereby making them more valuable in the marketplace. It also has some veterinary uses.

In humans, it is occasionally prescribed to treat asthma and “causes an increase in aerobic capacity, central nervous system stimulation, and an increase in blood pressure and oxygen transportation.” All of which would have obvious benefits for any endurance athlete.

But the five Mexican Gold Cup players, and the hundreds of players cited in FIFA’s U-17 report, apparently ingested it via livestock. As Dvorak says, this development is “highly surprising … I had not seen anything like it in my 20 years in this post.”

The report will also, as the AP suggests, “confuse the legal certainty of prosecuting athletes who test positive for clenbuterol—notably three-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador.”

Contador’s case will get its final hearing in late November.

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