WADA Drops Case Against Five Mexican Players Who Tested Positive at Gold Cup

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) announced yesterday that it has dropped its appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), where it was going to challenge the Mexican Football Federation’s decision to clear the five members of El Tri who tested positive for clenbuterol at last summer’s Gold Cup.

WADA issued the statement after accepting FIFA’s determination that the players tested positive because their Twitter accounts were hacked they ate meat tainted with the steroid.

Sigh.

There are just two problems with this outcome, as we see it.

First, FIFA made its determination after “working with the government of Mexico.”

Nothing against the government of Mexico, but, well, soccer is a huge point of pride in that nation, and a pastime deeply woven into its cultural fabric. They have not appreciated the recent gains made by the U.S. in the soccer border rivalry, and were very—very—pleased with the outcome of the Gold Cup. Nuff said.

Second, you can’t test positive for clenbuterol by eating “tainted” meat.

Let’s go to the expert, Fernando Ramos, “a professor at the University of Coimbra in Portugal who has studied clenbuterol contamination in meat for 20 years.”

According to Mr. Ramos, any animal pumped with enough clenbuterol for it to show up in the urine of a person who ate that animal would have died before being slaughtered for food.

Ramos says it’s possible to ingest detectable amounts of clenbuterol from livestock—but only if you eat the liver of the animal, “where clenbuterol is known to accumulate.” And then you would get terribly ill.

There have been numerous reports of these five players “eating contaminated meat” but not one about them “falling terribly ill from eating clenbuterol-soaked meat.”

For whatever reason, WADA has let this one go. Chances are, they will be a little more hard-nosed when it comes to Alberto Contador, the three-time Tour de France winner whose case goes before CAS next month.

Contador tested positive for clenbuterol during the 2010 Tour de France, which he won, and claimed the positive was the result of … wait for it …  his Twitter being hacked? … here it comes … eating contaminated meat!

Ramos, again, from the Times article:

When asked what the chances were that Contador’s positive test, even at such low levels, was a result of the meat he ate, Ramos said, “I can say 99 percent, it’s impossible.”

Four More Members of El Tri Showed Traces of Clenbuterol

The number of players on Mexico’s Gold Cup–winning team to have shown traces of the banned substance clenbuterol in their bloodstreams has risen to nine, FIFA chief medical officer Jiri Dvorak announced yesterday.

In addition to the five players who tested positive “for a relatively high concentration of clenbuterol” and were suspended in June, four other players, whose names were not revealed, produced samples “with traces of the same substance.”

FIFA’s Dvorak said the cases were being examined with further tests at a laboratory in Germany.

Can we all agree that this latest development makes the entire case suspicious, at the very least? We are amazed at how this story is being dismissed, and how the “tainted meat” excuse is being, uh, swallowed, so readily.

We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: “I ate tainted beef” as an excuse for a positive PED test is on par with “My Twitter account was hacked” as an explanation for all those photos of your junk out in cyberland.

Dvorak seems to be clouding the issue himself, suggesting he was perplexed by the test results and saying it is “difficult for me to imagine that practically a whole team from a developing country such as Mexico” should turn in positive tests.

Really Jiri? Why is that? And since when is Mexico, in soccer terms, a developing country? They’ve played in 14 World Cups, been to two WC quarterfinals, and hosted the event twice.

They are very much a first-world soccer nation—and a proud one none too happy with the rise of their northern neighbors in the past 10 years.

Like any other fierce competitor on the face of the earth, they would look for (and take) an edge wherever they could find it.

We would not be surprised if there’s a simple explanation for the test results.

As the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has gone on the record saying, the risk of tainted meat causing a positive result is remote.

The chances of nine results, out of 14 tested, coming back positive because of “tainted meat”?

If you believe that, we can guess where you stand on O.J. Simpson, Lance Armstrong, and an opportunity to purchase the bridge connecting lower Manhattan to the borough of Brooklyn.

Adu (That’s Right, Adu), Donovan, and Dempsey Link Up to Power U.S. into Gold Cup Final

The U.S. advanced to the final of the 2011 Gold Cup last night, edging Panama 1-0 in a scrappy semifinal in Houston’s Reliant Stadium. The Yanks will take on Mexico—2-0 extra-time winners over Honduras in the other semifinal—in the final in the Rose Bowl on Saturday night (9:00 ET, Fox Soccer Channel).

The big pregame talking point was the benching of the team’s alltime leader in goals and assists, Landon Donovan. The postgame talking points also involved Donovan—who came on after halftime—and amazingly, Freddy Adu, the onetime prodigy who signed a pro contract with D.C. United at the age of 14 and hadn’t played for the Nats since 2009.

Adu entered the game in the 66th minute and 10 minutes later, he sprung Donovan on the right wing with a perfectly lofted (and weighted) pass from the center of the pitch. Donovan then found Clint Dempsey at the far post with a pinpoint diagonal ball for the matchwinner.

Highlights at bottom, but first, a clip of Dempsey channeling how great U.S. fans and players felt to see Adu back contributing to the USMNT after years of wandering in the wilderness of hype and too-much-too-soon.

Deuce videobombed Adu’s postgame interview with Fox Soccer:

The only thing missing was the pie to the face.

Match highlights here:

Apparently, the benching did not hurt LD’s game, and, given his substandard Gold Cup performances so far, may have helped.

And Adu played well overall, beyond his role in the decisive goal. A few minutes after Dempsey’s strike, Adu made a great run away from three defenders on the right flank, beat a fourth with a stepover move, and cut the ball back for Michael Bradley in the box.

Bradley chose to pass instead of shoot (and his pass went awry) but that could have been a second goal for the U.S.

Finally, coach Bob Bradley is headed down the road to vindication—yet again. He’s got his team to the Gold Cup final, where they were expected to be, and he made some gutsy calls along the way: benching Donovan and starting Kljestan and Bedoya versus Jamaica; holding LD out again last night, and rolling the dice on Adu.

Imagine if Adu had underperformed and the U.S. had lost—there would have been a tsunami of backlash, maybe enough to sweep Bradley out of his job.

As it happened, though, Adu did just the opposite, the U.S. won, and Bradley looked like a coach well in tune with his players’ form—and psyches.

Now, if he can get them to beat the in-form Chicharito and Mexico, in what will essentially be an away game at the Rose Bowl, his critics will have to clam up—once again.

Early-Evening Roundup: Donovan Benched Again, Uzbeks Drop U.S. U-17s

We’re about to bust out to watch the U.S. take on Panama in their Gold Cup semifinal, but we just checked the Twitter feed and found this bombshell: Landon Donovan will start tonight’s crucial game on the bench.

This is obviously huge, and it suggests that his previous benching, against Jamaica in the quarterfinals, may have had more to it than the fact that LD flew in from his sister’s wedding in California the night before.

Here’s the starting XI:

Tim Howard

Steve Cherundolo, Clarence Goodson, Carlos Bocanegra, Eric Lichaj

Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones; Alejandro Bedoya, Sacha Kljestan, Clint Dempsey

Juan Agudelo

It’s probably safe to say that most (all) observers assumed that either Kljestan or Bedoya would be dropped in favor of Donovan, but that has not happened.

How will the team respond? How will Donovan respond if and when he comes in as a sub?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments, and enjoy the game.

In other U.S. news, the U-17 American team was upended 2-1 by Uzbekistan this afternoon at the youth World Cup in Mexico.

It’s a surprising result, to say the least, since the U.S. was coming off a convincing 3-0 win over the Czech Republic while the Uzbeks were drubbed 4-1 by New Zealand in their opener.

The young Nats will need a result, and maybe a win, against the Kiwis in their final group stage game. New Zealand and the Czech Republic kick off their second group-stage game at 7:00.

Gold Cup Travel: A Re-Think Is in Order

The U.S. opened its 2011 Gold Cup campaign against Canada in Detroit on June 7.

For their next match, on June 11, the Yanks flew to Tampa to take on Panama before finishing up the group stage against Guadeloupe on June 14 in Kansas City, Kansas.

Three games in seven days in three distant cities.

After surviving this odyssey, the U.S. qualified for the quarterfinals, where they faced Jamaica in Washington, D.C. on June 19.

(All of this equals another reason why Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey’s wedding excursions were questionable.)

The other teams had similar set-ups. Jamaica, to name one, played its opener in Los Angeles, its second game in Miami, for Pete’s sake, and its third in New Jersey before losing to the U.S. in D.C.

We understand CONCACAF wants exposure in as many markets as possible, while matching national teams to suitable cities, but this is taking it too far.

Put it this way: there are more venues (13) than teams (12) in this tournament.

They should make group play a more regional setup, at least.

Maybe CONCACAF prez Jack Warner Lisle Austin  Alfredo Hawit can look into it.

Donovan Sits, U.S. Drops Jamaica 2-0

Apparently, the correct answer to our question last week regarding LD and Deuce was: Donovan, no; Dempsey, yes.

For the first time since 2007, Landon Donovan started a U.S. game on the bench, less than 24 hours after he arrived in D.C. from his twin sister’s wedding in California.

On the other hand, Clint Dempsey, who attended his sister’s wedding in Texas, and arrived in D.C. at 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning, did get the starting nod for Sunday’s quarterfinal against Jamaica, which kicked off at 3:00 p.m.

Dempsey not only started and played the full 90, but was also arguably the Man of the Match, putting his imprint on the midfield, presenting a constant threat going forward, and scoring the goal that put the game away in the 80th minute. Afterward he said he wanted to play well “… to pay back the U.S. team for letting me go and not let the travel be an excuse [but] rather be motivation.”

Donovan came on in the 66th minute and turned in a steady performance.

Highlights here:

There was much talk about this being the best performance of the tournament for the U.S., and about how they’d regained their “swagger,” and now look capable of winning the tournament.

A few counterpoints:

• While we agree it was the Yanks’ best performance of Gold Cup 2011, that’s not saying a whole lot.

• It’s hard to believe, and we are having a hard time just typing it, but the U.S. nearly gave up another early goal. In the fourth minute, San Jose Earthquakes attacker Ryan Johnson received the ball at the far post, no one within yards of him.

He was so wide open, he looked blatantly offside—yet he wasn’t: Michael Bradley, slowly jogging out from the near post, kept Johnson on. Tim Howard made a kick save on Johnson and the rebound was somehow skied over the bar.

If either one of those clear chances goes in, the game takes on an entirely different cast.

• The red card to Jermaine Taylor (Houston Dynamo), which helped seal the U.S. victory down the stretch, was completely unwarranted. Taylor hardly touched Jermaine Jones, as the replays clearly showed. The most amazing thing about the play was how Taylor accepted his fate without a single gesture of protest. Just walked right off. Strange—because he didn’t even commit a foul, much less a red-card offense.

The U.S. will play the first semifinal on Wednesday night (7:00 ET, Fox Soccer Channel), getting another shot at Panama, controversial winners over El Salvador (click here for you-are-there field-level highlights, sans TV commentators).

Mexico will meet Honduras in the second semi (10:00 ET, FSC).

For our recap of this past week’s MLS action, click here, and for a quick Father’s Day piece we did for MLS, see here.

Should Donovan and Dempsey Start Against Jamaica?

In case you hadn’t heard, U.S. midfielders Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan are in Texas and California, respectively, right now, attending their sisters’ weddings while the rest of the U.S. team is in Washington, D.C., preparing for Sunday’s Gold Cup quarterfinal against Jamaica (3:00 ET, Fox Soccer Channel).

Both players are scheduled to travel Saturday night and be available for selection on Sunday.

Now, considering the pair’s status on the U.S. team (they’re the top two players), and the stakes of the game (win or go home), they probably will start the game.

But the question remains, should they start?

Would it reflect badly on the team, and on coach Bob Bradley’s authority, if they were to make the first XI after missing training and flying back the night before such a big game?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

Our first thought when we heard the news was Sure hope this doesn’t become a postgame talking point. That remains the main issue for us. If the U.S. stumbles against Jamaica, and Donovan and Dempsey don’t deliver, look for this story to blow up.

There are other factors as well: What message does this send to the rest of the U.S. team, and more importantly, what does it say to Jamaica? Is this bulletin-board for the Reggae Boyz, as in, The U.S.’s best two players think they can get off a plane, stiff legs and all, the night before playing us and still get the job done. We’ll show them.

Either way, this will be a tough match for the Yanks, as Jamaica is riding high, having won all three of their group games without conceding a goal.

The Reggae Boyz have plenty of experienced players, several of whom play in Norway’s top flight, and six who play in MLS—Donovan Ricketts (Los Angeles), Ryan Johnson (San Jose), Dane Richards (New York), Shavar Thomas (Sporting Kansas City), Dicoy Williams (Name Hall of Famer, Toronto), and Jermaine Taylor (Houston).

Jamaica’s roster might have included two more MLSers, Colorado’s Omar Cummings and Tyrone Marshall, but Cummings is hurt and Marshall decided to remain with the injury-plagued Rapids.

The most obvious quality of the Jamaican team is outstanding team speed, but this group, as Reggae Boyz veteran Robbie Earle told Extra Time Radio recently, plays a more sophisticated style, and will look to vary as well as dictate the tempo of Sunday’s game.

Containing the in-form Johnson (two goals in Gold Cup play) and the lightning-fast Richards will be two top priorities for the Yanks.

Second Test Comes Back Negative, Proving … That Suspended Mexican Players Haven’t Ingested Clenbuterol Since Testing Positive for It the First Time

The five suspended Mexico national team players took another test on June 10, one day after it was revealed that they’d tested positive for the banned substance clenbuterol in a test administered on May 21.

Keep that last part in mind: The original test was conducted on May 21, meaning they had traces of clenbuterol in their systems on May 21.

On June 10, according to the results announced yesterday, they did not.

What does this prove? Only what we said in the header above.

How does it exonerate them? It doesn’t—except in the realm of public (and widespread journalistic) perception.

We don’t mean to flog a dead horse (or cow, or chicken), but this story is fading—and the “beef” excuse is being accepted—way too easily.

Immediately after the tainted beef excuse was offered, Mexico’s department of agriculture cried foul (fowl?), saying that cases of contamination were one in a million. One in a million—yet here were five in a row.

Beyond that, whenever there are cases of contamination—which, again, are one in a million—the persons involved become sick, suffering “headache, palpitations, nervousness, and fluctuating blood pressure rates.”

We never heard about the Mexican players getting sick.

This article in The Miami Herald, which suggests that clenbuterol contamination is a widespread problem with Mexican beef, states that “those sickened by tainted meat are usually those who buy organ meat, mainly liver, at markets and cook it at home.”

Did the suspended players dine on liver? Never heard that part of the story either.

No, this “second test” at UCLA was strictly a PR move, designed to produce the appearance of innocence. And it’s working.

Put it this way: If you got clocked going over the limit in Tijuana, but slowed down in time for that speed trap you knew about in San Diego, it doesn’t mean you weren’t speeding in Tijuana.

This story won’t truly move forward until the “B” sample of the original (May 21) test comes back—which is expected to happen this week.

As SB Nation wrote yesterday:

The players have now requested [the results of the] “B” test of the initial samples from May 21st that started this controversy. Despite the results of the new test, the five players remain out of the Gold Cup until the results on “B” sample test come back. A clean “B” sample likely means immediate reinstatement for the players, while another positive will likely force the FMF to continue their investigation.

If those “B” samples come back negative, we’ll lay off (we promise) and stay silent on the issue as El Tri cruises to the Gold Cup title, which they seem very likely to do at the moment, having romped through group play with a 14-1 goal difference.

But if they’re positive, then that means the original tests were accurate, and an independent body needs to investigate—not the Mexican Soccer Federation.

U.S. 1, Guadeloupe 0: Yanks Survive Shaky Start, Horrendous Finishing

A third-minute Guadeloupe corner kick squeaked past the U.S. near post, ricocheted around the goalmouth, and nearly ended up in the back of Tim Howard’s net last night, as Guadeloupe defender Stephane Zubar rocked a shot off the crossbar.

It would have been the 207th* time the U.S. had given up an early goal in an important competition during the past two years, but, fortunately for the Americans, the ball did not go in.

And just six minutes later the U.S. got the only goal they’d need, a sensational 25-yard scorcher by Jozy Altidore. The Yanks could have put the game away on many occasions, as they missed a small bushel of chances, including seven by Clint Dempsey, two of which were the kind of opportunities he usually buries without thinking.

Highlights here:

With the win, the U.S finishes second in Group C behind Panama (which tied Canada 1-1 last night) and moves on to the quarterfinals to face Group B winners Jamaica.

Hopefully the Americans can avoid a sleepy start against the speedy Jamaicans, who feature six MLS players and won all three of their group games while outscoring the opposition 7–0.

We’re looking for positives in the U.S.’s underwhelming group-stage showing, and … here’s one: Remember the 2009 Confederations Cup, when the U.S. looked out of their depth in early losses to Brazil and Italy, only to produce an extraordinary three-goal win over Egypt and make a storybook run to the final?

Maybe that’s the model we should look to here: Underperform, raise the ire of Big Soccer message-board posters, generate us-against-the-world mentality, and peak in the knockout stages.

(Yeah, that’s all we’ve got in the way of silver linings right now.)

Here are the quarterfinal pairings:

Saturday, New Meadowlands Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.

Costa Rica vs. Honduras, 5 p.m.

Mexico vs. Guatemala, 8 p.m.

Sunday, RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.

Jamaica vs. United States, 3 p.m.

Panama vs. El Salvador, 6 p.m.

The winners at each venue meet in the semifinals, so the U.S. could get a shot at redemption against Panama, as well as a meeting with with Mexico in the final on June 25 at the Rose Bowl.

*Slight exaggeration.

U.S. Gold Cup Quarterfinal Scenarios: Odds Favor a Meeting with Jamaica

The Sporting News’s Brian Straus broke down the various scenarios for the U.S. following tonight’s final group-stage game against Guadeloupe, and it looks like a quarterfinal meeting with the Reggae Boyz is on the cards for Father’s Day in Washington, D.C.

If the U.S. beats or ties Guadeloupe (likely), and Panama beats or ties Canada (also likely*), the Yanks will finish second in Group C and take on Group B winners Jamaica (which won all three of their group matches without conceding a goal).

The U.S. could also get Guatemala, or, if they drop to third place, a dreaded meeting with Mexico. They could also be bounced out of the tournament altogether.

Since Canada and Jamaica kick off at 7:00 at Livestrong Sporting Park, the U.S. will know just what they need before taking the same field to face Guadeloupe at 9:00.

*Panama are through to the quarterfinals, but could still drop all the way to third in Group C with a loss. That would land them in a quarterfinal matchup with Mexico, something they’ll be eager to avoid.

Here are the complicated possibilities, according to Straus:

For the U.S. to win Group C and face Guatemala in the quarterfinals on June 19 in Washington, DC:

The U.S. must defeat Guadeloupe and Canada must defeat Panama.

The three teams would then be tied at 2-1-0, and goal difference in the games played between the three would be the tiebreaker.

The U.S. would win the group if:

It defeats Guadeloupe and Canada defeats Panama by one or two goals.

It scores at least twice in a win over Guadeloupe and Canada beats Panama, 3-0.

It beats Guadeloupe 1-0, Canada wins 3-0 and the U.S. wins a subsequent drawing of lots.

For the U.S. to finish second in Group C and face Jamaica in the quarterfinals on June 19 in Washington, DC:

A quarterfinal date with the Reggae Boyz (3-0-0) is the most likely outcome. It will occur if the U.S. beats or ties Guadeloupe while Panama defeats or ties Canada.

It can also happen if:

The U.S. loses to Guadeloupe by one goal and Panama defeats Canada.

The U.S. beats Guadeloupe 1-0, Canada beats Panama 3-0 and the U.S. loses a subsequent drawing of lots.

The U.S. defeats Guadeloupe and Canada beats Panama by three goals while scoring at least four, or by a four-goal margin.

For the U.S. to finish third in Group C and face Mexico in the quarterfinals on June 18 in East Rutherford, NJ:

If the U.S. ties Guadeloupe and Canada defeats Panama, the Americans will head to the New Meadowlands Stadium and a nightmare quarterfinal matchup with a Mexican side that won its three first-found games by a combined 14-1.

For the U.S. to be eliminated from the Gold Cup:

The U.S. loses to Guadeloupe and Canada defeats or ties Panama.

The U.S. loses to Guadeloupe by two or more goals and Panama beats Canada.