Questions, questions

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Meat the press

There are lots of unanswered questions regarding Alberto Contador’s positive test. Clearly Contador is himself desperate for answers but there are issues the Spaniard can clear up that go well beyond a cut of meat.

We need to question the motives and behaviour of others as well, this a tale with a large cast of actors. So here are some things that need answers:

Questions for the UCI

  • If both A and B samples came back positive some time ago and Alberto Contador received an immediate provisional suspension, why wasn’t this communicated immediately?
  • Why did it take two months to go public?
  • What led to the decision to go public with the news?
  • Apart from Contador and his entourage, UCI officials, the Cologne lab and WADA, did anyone else know about this before it was made public?
  • Did the UCI act differently, whether in procedure or timing, when China’s Fuyu Li tested positive for the same prohibited substance?

Contador’s steak holder consultations

  • Where does the meat come from? The team chef says he bought it in the market,  José Luis López Cerrón says he bought it in Irun.
  • Why do the accounts about the meal differ? Spanish cycling honcho José Luis López Cerrón says all the riders were eating, but some riders say they were delayed and the hotel kitchen was closed, so they got the tainted cut after it was cooked on the team bus?
  • When did efforts to trace the rogue steak begin?
  • When was the Astana team informed?
  • When did Bjarne Riis learn of this?

Anti-doping controls:

  • Just how long have the anti-doping labs been checking for “plasticisers” in an athelete’s blood?
  • If they have been checking for plasticisers, have they recorded the data?
  • Did they inform the UCI that some riders were showing suspiciously high levels?
  • If so did the UCI follow up the information?
  • Is WADA reviewing this testing method?

Some of these questions don’t necessarily have answers. Others, like examining UCI policy, are hardly worth asking as the governing body is notoriously uncooperative, although they do talk if the pressure builds up. But if we want to get to the bottom of this mess we need to examine everything and everyone involved here.

mindtron October 2, 2010 at 1:55 pm

I'm a little confused over the nature of the positive.

I know that there is technically no acceptable level of Clenbuterol, but I thought that there was still a limit the athlete had to be over for it to be considered a positive. Media reports have been confusing on this but it sounds like Contador was below that amount, so how could it be a positive?

As for the plasticisers, it does sound damning but since it isn't a doping offence, it seems very unfair to come up.

On another note, would love to get your take on the whole medical waste investigation for the 2009 TDF.

TheInnerRing October 2, 2010 at 2:06 pm

mindtron, any amount of Clenbuterol is a positve.

The 400 times ratio comes from the standard that WADA has given to labs, they must have machines that can detect a quantity of this particular prohibited substance and the minimum resolution required is 400 times the amount found in Contador's samples.

On the plasticisers, it's leaked out. It shows some people have an axe to grind here, the fact that this news has come out at the same time suggests some are working behind the scenes,.

As for the 2009 investigation, there are reportedly DNA samples from Astana and Caisse d'Epargne, including seven seperate Astana riders. Given infusions are illegal in France and also in breach of the WADA code it means that if this goes further then some big names will be in real trouble.

On your second point about making others responsible, it's unworkable. An agent can't police what a rider is doing, nor can a team manager. Nevertheless, agents and managers have put their riders in touch with "doctors" but this doesn't mean we can automatically punish any agent.

I would though like to see the UCI adopt a policy where officials directly linked to doping are banned from holding any related positions. For example some team doctors.

David N. Welton October 2, 2010 at 9:06 pm

My questions:

If it's meat contamination, why doesn't it happen more often?

If it really is meat contamination and Contador is telling the truth, what are the riders supposed to do? I know they're supposed to be responsible, but you can't send every meal out to a lab prior to consuming it.

There are some interesting observations here:

http://www.sportsscientists.com/2010/09/contador-tests-positive.html

Anonymous October 2, 2010 at 9:23 pm

I'd like to add that the 400 is in incorrect figure in the official UCI statement which is already removed with no trace or notice about this mistake, it's only 40 times smaller than the WADA standard. This thing raises another question, why did the UCI try to emphasize of the size(littleness) of the found substance and exaggerating/getting the figures wrong? I've never seen that before.
On the plasticisers, it is the one used in PVC which is used for transfusion bags, since PVC is transparent. And no the bottles they use are normally made of PE which does not contain this softening agent nor does it need one, before this question arises.
The leaked source and probably the driving force for the official UCI announcement came out was a German news team. If I remember correctly the labs are not allowed to go to the public with such informations, they have to inform the given authorities, speak WADA and the sport governing body, in this case the UCI and it is there right and duty to inform the public. Since this didn't happen I guess they "leaked" it to the media. The reporters then contacted the UCI as they had all the evidence and facts they needed to ensure the information was right and that was the day before the announcement. The UCI didn't comment on their call and McQuaid said he knew of nothing at the phone. They also are the ones who spread the word about the softening agent in his sample from the day before the positive sample and are the cited source on velonation.com and probably the l'Equipe source too.
the video in this article is the one where the lead reporter presents their result in an interview form which was aired on the day of the official announcement in German TV: http://www.sportschau.de/sp/radsport/news201010/01/contador_reaktionen.jsp

Anonymous October 2, 2010 at 9:26 pm

Oh right, I forgot to add, all intravenous infusions are a prohibited method that means doping:
http://www.sportschau.de/sp/radsport/news201010/01/contador_reaktionen.jsp
Chapter Prohibited Methods section M2 point 2. (page 6)

Anonymous October 2, 2010 at 9:26 pm

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