Blazin' Saddles

Blazin' Saddles

Blazin' Saddles: Albuterol Clentador

Thu Sep 30 06:58PM

Alberto Contador of Spain during a press conference at which he claimed clenbuterol in his system was the result of food contamination

Is Saddles the only one to think that the latest doping scandal to tarnish cycling contains more hot air than a weekend with the Mongolfier brothers?

Put simply, Contador's positive is the biggest non-story since Riccardo Ricco decided to store 50 Paracetamols in an unmarked bag at the bottom of a drawer in his house.

No, honestly: it's ludicrous. The miniscule amount of clenbuterol detected - we're talking 50 picograms (or 0.00000000005 grams per ml) - is consistent with the idea that El Pistelero inadvertently digested the banned substance.

The Spaniard passed doping tests on the three days leading up to the fateful failed test on the second Tour rest day in Pau - and why would anyone (especially a rider as savvy as Contador) risk everything taking a drug that has next to no performance-related benefits on a day he wasn't even putting in a shift? It's nonsensical.

So what is clenbuterol? It's a bronchodilator similar to the asthma drug salbutamol (or Petacchi Puff, as it has come to be known). It's also goes under the brand name of Ventipulmin - a drug used for the treatment of horses suffering from breathing disorders. In all likelihood the only sportsman it could actually benefit is Ruud van Nistelrooy.

But when the news first broke, agencies naturally took it upon themselves to describe clenbuterol as a vicious banned substance that can be used to help lose weight (Contador's no porky, even if he's telling a few pork pies), help breathing and boost performance by increasing strength.

Some people probably went as far as to suggest that 50 picograms of the stuff would be the difference between keeping one's chain on one's bike and making a fool of oneself changing the gear while out of the saddle.

But all this is prime Spanish bull. Ok, of course Contador was always going to poo-poo any alleged benefits of the drug during his near-tearful press conference in his hometown of Pinto. What of a neutral point of view from someone in the know?

"There's no justifiable benefit to be derived from clenbuterol that is worth the risk testing positive for it," says Joe Papp, a former doped rider and current Blazin' Saddles fan.

"It produces terrible muscle cramps and tremors that would leave you considering suicide if taken during the Tour. I would know: I've tried it and I had to abandon the race. There's nothing redeeming about it even in the off season.

"Doping with clenbuterol is the equivalent of crushing and snorting Adderal as an alternative to cocaine - you're not going to get much of a hit. So why bother? If he did, what an idiot."

What is idiotic is that Contador and his team of lawyers have had six weeks to come up with a plausible excuse and then they have played the food contamination card.

That said, Bertie's tenuous explanation of how one of the Astana chefs bought some meat from a Spanish butchers on the way to Pau, cooked it on the day before the rest day, let it cool down, reheated it the next day and served it up - but only to Contador, mind, because the rest of the team wanted to eat later while Alexandre Vinokourov, that renowned vegetarian, didn't take a fancy to beef that night. . . is so ridiculous (Pau-thetic, even) that it can only be true.

And it helps that Contador has a signed note from one Dr Douwe de Boer confirming the traces must have come from "edible parts of cattle" (that's pretty much the whole beast, in Spain) - and that there's a PHD thesis doing the rounds online entitled "Tainted Meat: Clenbuterol Use in the Meat Industry".

It's no wonder Spain is experiencing a golden age in sport - the whole nation is unwittingly wolfing down micro doses of horse tranquilisers in their paella.

What's more, the Cologne laboratory which discovered these micro-doses is said to contain only one of four machines that can test for such miniscule levels. Further complications may arise with the suggestion that the machine in question was in fact the one purchased for the UCI thanks to a donation from Lance Armstrong, Contador's old foe.

That, like all good cuts of meat, has to be taken with a pinch of salt - just like the suggestion that Contador should have turned down the coffee and bacon roll offered to him when he dropped into the RadioShack team bus in the opening week of the Tour to give his old team-mate a watch as a present.

Besides Contador himself, the man everyone wanted to get hold since the scandal broke has been Bjarne Riis, who recently signed the Spaniard for his Saxo Bank-Sunguard squad.

The big Dane has not been answering his phone - rumour has it it's because he's been on the blower all day trying to get in contact with Andy Schleck to ask him out for a conciliatory drink on his return from the world championships in Australia.

One thing is certain: the Contador saga will drag on and on - and even if the Spaniard is cleared (the likely outcome, surely) his name and the sport will be somewhat tarnished. Good steaks go down well - but everyone remembers an overcooked cut of beef.

More disturbing is the news that Vuelta runner-up Ezequiel Mosquera and his Xacobeo-Galicia team-mate David Garcia Da Pena both tested positive for banned plasma substitute hydroxyethyl taken during Tour of Spain.

Who would have thought: a Spanish veteran riding for a second-tier Spanish team and almost winning the Vuelta after no previous Grand Tour podiums, eh?

Mosquera had just signed a two-year deal with Vacansoleil, the Dutch team who recently gave former banned EPO cheat Riccardo Ricco a lifeline.

It will come as a double blow then that it also emerged today that Italian investigators discovered at least 50 suspicious tablets at Ricco's home in Modena.

As the cycling world awaits news of Mosquera's B sample and the analysis of the Cobra's pills, the HR and Recruitment Manager at Vacansoleil must surely be sweating like a Spanish cattle farmer - after all, he or she has about as much prospects of reemployment as the Astana head chef.

Follow Blazin' Saddles throughout the day on www.twitter.com/saddleblaze.

  1. clenbuterol 0.00000000005 grams per ml , that's their idea of doping? what a JOKE. this is no doping, this is no news. leave poor alberto alone, he's a great cyclist.

    i'd rather be hearing about cancellara's win than this nonsense.

    marioni211From marioni211 on Thu Sep 30 07:20PM

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  2. Great article. It is just really sad for the sport that the results are released to the world before the accused has a chance to defend himself, and in this case with trace ammounts so minute it seems hardly worth the effort, especially given the previous tests that were negative. It is the bad PR also that is wrecking the sport as well as the French Inquisition.

    (Ps from france)

    maisonstgeorgesFrom maisonstgeorges on Thu Sep 30 07:21PM

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  3. Thank you Saddles, great article and some common sense applied. I hope some of the morons leaving ridiculous comments on here read this and maybe just maybe have a better understanding of the situation and call of the witch-hunt. I agree marioni it is a travesty this nonsense has overshadowed Cancellara's great victory ...

    keansebayFrom keansebay on Thu Sep 30 07:44PM

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  4. The number that has been kicked around is 400 times under the limit. Well, it appears this is untrue the number I read on another cycling source says the number is 40. Maybe this changes things a little in the mind of the doubter and the b sample has already been confirmed so what now Bjarne Riis.

    l1chadwilliamsFrom l1chadwilliams on Thu Sep 30 08:02PM

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  5. Well said BS. Isn't time the regulations regarding test results were changed. Given the circumstances you so abley outlined, the miniscule amount found and the fact there were no traces before that particular test. It's fairly obvious it wasn't doping. There should be a level, below which it should not be delared a positive test without further investigation. In this case it seems we already have the conclusions as the tests the three days before were negative.
    Regarding "Operation Puerto", why was the lid put on after the names of cylists had been released and the names of high profile football and tennis players were found?

    martinrochford.t21From martinrochford.t21 on Thu Sep 30 09:32PM

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  6. What happen to "it the responsibility of the athlete to know what he or she has put into their system" - if Contador is let off the hook, then so should all the others, that were put on suspension in 2010 for the same substance and also claimed food contamination. Its funny to see blazin saddles support a doper who tested positive not only in the A sample but also in the B sample and hammer the one(s) who don't test positive. It show the bias of person who wrote the article and the individuals who responded. Doping is Doping, it doesn't matter how much. It's Contador's responsibility to know what he put into his system. if he is let off - there is definite favoritism being shown. Remember he was linked to Operation Prato.

    bugpwr2000From bugpwr2000 on Thu Sep 30 09:37PM

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  7. @#4 No its 400 times under the minimum testing level, that is to say any labs conducting analysis have to be able to detect a minimum threshold.....Contadors being 400 times beneath that level. Really its all a farce. I`m really not a Contador fan mostly because of his disgraceful face 'slap' and wink on the Tourmalet, but this really does stink of @#$% and as for the UCI's timing of the announcment....go figure!!?!!

    s.marsh01From s.marsh01 on Thu Sep 30 09:43PM

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  8. "That, like all good cuts of meat, has to be taken with a pinch of salt - just like the suggestion that Contador should have turned down the coffee and bacon roll offered to him when he dropped into the RadioShack team bus in the opening week of the Tour to give his old team-mate a watch as a present." - oi BS - Thats the second time you've passed off one of my forum comments as your own! The journo equivilant of a wheelsucker!

    keir_williamsFrom keir_williams on Thu Sep 30 09:53PM

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  9. "That, like all good cuts of meat, has to be taken with a pinch of salt - just like the suggestion that Contador should have turned down the coffee and bacon roll offered to him when he dropped into the RadioShack team bus in the opening week of the Tour to give his old team-mate a watch as a present." - Oi BS. That's the second time you've passed off one of my forum comments from another page as your own. The journo equivilant of wheelsucking!

    keir_williamsFrom keir_williams on Thu Sep 30 09:55PM

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  10. As much as I'm not a Contador fan, I would hate to see him go down for doping as it would further justify the criticism that is thrown cycling's way by people who are often ignorant of the sport. Is football as heavily tested as the top tier of professional cycling? Do rugby players have to worry about what inhaler they can or can't use?

    hrnghnarFrom hrnghnar on Thu Sep 30 10:01PM

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  11. BS, has nothing else in cycling happened to warrant a column from you? Just goes to show many in cycling thrive on doping stories, as much if not more than the outcomes of races themselves. The Worlds are happening now, in case you may have forgotten.

    demi162From demi162 on Thu Sep 30 10:39PM

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  12. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA WHat a brilliant piece of funny for a change cycling journalsim. never liked your articles before but this one is CLAAASSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!1

    stephen900From stephen900 on Thu Sep 30 10:43PM

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  13. Well BS. it seems some people still haven't read your artcle properly or don't understand the facts, i.e. no.6 and continue to write unsubstantiated nonsense.

    martinrochford.t21From martinrochford.t21 on Thu Sep 30 10:50PM

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  14. So this is the media's fault for jumping to conclusions, and putting this "non story" out for public consumption....

    Let's see....click on Eurosport, cycling page...let's see...articles to read....CONTADOR DOPING, CONTADOR DOPING, CONTADOR DOPING, CONTADOR SUSPENDED, CONTAMINATED MEAT. You guys are joking right? You ARE the problem, yet you chastise the problem. Are you folks at Eurosport all completely mad?

    cthennFrom cthenn on Fri Oct 01 12:57AM

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  15. i.e. no. 13 - it appears you and BS should read The Explainer no VeloNews - you could use some education - the word nonsense describes your mentality to a tee.

    bugpwr2000From bugpwr2000 on Fri Oct 01 01:33AM

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  16. Too much BS is going around here and in various news stories and blogs. I'm convinced no one here or elsewhere really knows enough about cycling and performance enhancing drugs to properly inform me. And I suppose exposing one's ignorance is what these forums are for. I prefer to wait for this to completely play out before I develop a firm opinion. Others should do the same. Whatever happens, this is bad for pro cycling.

    ptkoyaanisqatsiFrom ptkoyaanisqatsi on Fri Oct 01 04:43AM

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  17. This article is a load of bull! Plus Andy Schleck is not at the Worlds!

    andraglowFrom andraglow on Fri Oct 01 08:31AM

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  18. It´s not beef, he´s been contaminated by his own blood......

    bofjensenFrom bofjensen on Fri Oct 01 08:33AM

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  19. Look at eurosports homepage for cycling,dope,dope,dope,what about fabulous Fabian?

    andraglowFrom andraglow on Fri Oct 01 08:35AM

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  20. I see no. 15 is stooping to insults now, that says it all!

    martinrochford.t21From martinrochford.t21 on Fri Oct 01 09:15AM

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  21. You cycle up mountains wihtout even getting out of breath and you dont take drugs? yea right

    andyganleyFrom andyganley on Fri Oct 01 09:23AM

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  22. What is blazing saddles on about? Its a banned substance and it shouldn't be there.
    And to say the drug has next to no performance enhancing qualities is rubbish.It is known to help oxygen transportation.And can we all think back to Verbier 2009 climb?Frankly impossible.
    And what does Contador say? The drug controls are too good!!!!It can only be detected in four labs in the world at this concentration.Who cares?Any amount is illegal.
    What does WADA state? Anything in an athletes body is their responsibility.
    Have we forgot about Operacion Puerto?
    Sorry but there is too much controversy around Contador over the last few years to give the benefit of the doubt. Hasn't that not been given already?

    michaelryan_1983From michaelryan_1983 on Fri Oct 01 10:39AM

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  23. @michaelryan_1983 Lick any bank note in London and New York and you'll probably end up with 0.00000000005 grams per ml of cocaine in your blood.

    felixloweFrom felixlowe on Fri Oct 01 10:51AM

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  24. the machine may have bveen bought by armstrong but wasn`t he cited for the same substance

    vorlonltFrom vorlonlt on Fri Oct 01 10:55AM

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  25. 'Couldnt happen to a nicer bloke, ha ha. For years Armstrong had to put up with accusations and NEVER tested pos. They even accuseed him over drugs he took to save his life from cancer. So TOUGH LUCK CONTA !!!

    krscotFrom krscot on Fri Oct 01 11:04AM

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  26. Laugh all you can about the amount: Doping is a question of what you're allowed to do and what you are forbidden to do. Cheating does not have a spectrum of levels, it's a binary concept. Cheat or not. Now you decide.

    mokusmisiFrom mokusmisi on Fri Oct 01 11:16AM

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  27. "It's no wonder Spain is experiencing a golden age in sport - the whole nation is unwittingly wolfing down micro doses of horse tranquilisers in their paella." HAHA
    1.The meat story,=our dog ate my homework (kids excuse). Heras is innocent, Iban mayo didnt do it, Valverde is still innocent, and now Contador. DOPERS FROM SPAIN. (Sastre is the only clean top cyclist in spain).
    2. Lets say they find Cocaine in your body, ( doesnt matter the cocentration) = you did cocaine, dont try to blame it on the milk/coffee you had the other day.
    3. I have a theory, I think Contador ate Vinos lunch ( my excuse sounds more believable than Contadors)
    4. Floyd Landis, stop advising Contador, it is not funny anymore.

    chem452002From chem452002 on Fri Oct 01 11:23AM

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  28. Armstrong got accused without a positive test and he defended himself, now they caught Contador red handed and you have a problem with the concentration???? try stand up comedy lol Heras, Valverde, Iban Mayo, now Contador, they all DOPERS FROM SPAIN

    chem452002From chem452002 on Fri Oct 01 11:28AM

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  29. Alberto's ridiculously lame excuse proves he is up to no good. Everything eaten on the Tour is eaten for a purpose. There isn't a chance of an "accidental steak." Making up a whooper like that only says guilty to me.

    vilseckdaveFrom vilseckdave on Fri Oct 01 11:30AM

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  30. BS.. wake up and smell the coffee. Stevie Wonder can see the BS in your article... #1 why would anyone (especially a rider as savvy as Contador) risk everything taking a drug that has next to no performance-related benefits on a day he wasn't even putting in a shift? DUH... he was probably using greater amounts pre-Tour and it was returned to his blood with a transfusion. #2 So what is clenbuterol? It's a bronchodilator similar to the asthma drug salbutamol (or Petacchi Puff, as it has come to be known). It's also goes under the brand name of Ventipulmin - a drug used for the treatment of horses suffering from breathing disorders. DUHx2... hello... you don't think for one second that this substance has any effect on the human body?... right.

    bluefalconsFrom bluefalcons on Fri Oct 01 11:32AM

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