Alberto Contador has received backing from one top scientific expert over his clenbuterol and plasticizers – plastic residues –  cases on Wednesday, but at the same time another scientist has asserted that the plasticizers at least could be indicative of doping.

Traces of plasticizers were allegedly present in Contador’s blood sample on July 20 – although the rider has not been officially notified of this – whilst clenbuterol has been confirmed as present on two days, July 21 and July 22, in one of Contador’s urine samples. All of the tests were carried out by a German laboratory, in Cologne, after which somebody  decided to leak the results to the media.

Douwe De Boer, a Dutch professor at the University of Maastricht and an antidoping expert in clenbuterol, has told Spanish newspaper MARCA that “the contaminated food is, scientifically speaking, the most probable [explanation for clenbuterol] and the transfusion theory, the least probable.”

However, at the opposite end of the spectrum, Spanish professor Jordi Segura, who runs Barcelona’s Anti-Doping lab, has claimed in another newspaper, ‘AS’ that the levels of plastic in Contador’s blood “are indicative of a transfusion.”

“Blood bags contain components called plasticizers, which do not disappear when blood is stored in them.”

“As these remains are also present in other commonly used articles made of plastic, a high level has to be detected in order for it to be considered positive.”

However, that theory was rubbished by De Boer, who argued that “everybody would test positive, including you and me. We all have plastics in our body.”

De Boer also argued that “if the meat Contador ate was highly contaminated with clenbuterol, then it would be enough for the kind of small percentage that has appeared.”

“The most probable scenario is that it came from pork or beef.”

Neither expert is entirely free of indirect links either to the case or to the tests themselves.

Segura was one of the scientists responsible for the creation of the as yet unauthorized plasticizers test which he feels so convinced is, as he says, “one of the most important advances in anti-doping in the last few years.” (Segura is also the legal custodian of the blood bags seized by police during the Operacion Puerto anti-doping probe.)

Meanwhile, De Boer was hired by Contador to help clear his name, according to Contador on the UCI’s recommendation.

What there is no getting away from is that independently the plasticizers tests wouldn’t stand up in court because it isn’t yet legally valid.

There’s also the fact that the alleged plasticizers positive and the clenbuterol positives are on different days. How then, argue Contador’s supporters, is it possible that the clenbuterol came from a blood bag – as has been suggested by, amongst others, anti-doping expert, Rasmus Damsgaard – if the positives did not happen simultaneously.

However, other experts have said that the plasticizers results, even if unofficial, could form part of an overall report complied to accuse an athlete of doping.

Yet another solution would be for the the UCI to take up the offer made by  Contador to have his samples frozen for five years, by which time the plasticizers test would be legally valid.

In the meantime, though, the media feeding frenzy over Contador’s positive would continued unchecked, doing yet more damage to cycling’s image. The only conclusion at  this stage in the game is that it seems that no solution to the Contador case would resolve it completely to everybody’s satisfaction.

Related links

Alberto Contador: The clenbuterol, the beef excuse and traces of plastic

Spanish authorities investigate source of Contador’s mystery meat

McQuaid quiet on Contador case but says Spain can do more

Did Contador have a transfusion during the Tour?

Contador points finger at imported meat for clenbuterol positive

Contador tests positive for clenbuterol says governing body

  • parp

    To Nevis the Cat… Saline drips are not permitted. Banned by WADA rules.

  • Samuel Gamester

    Perhaps Contador and his management could use this situation to their advantage instead of just hiding behind the usual rhetoric of denial and obfuscation? Contador is clearly a very special athlete with fantastic natural power output and technique. However in the past his attitude to professionalism and etiquette in the peloton has been questionable. As we are now at the end of a season and he is changing teams he has an opportunity to ‘re-brand’ himself as the clean athlete par excellence, epitomising dignity, humility and generosity to the sport. All he has to do is come out and say performance-enhancing drugs are unacceptable and he will do everything he is asked to prove that he is not a user, and act as a figurehead for the anti-doping movement. In order to limit the damage to professional cycling’s reputation worldwide, he needs to do something drastic to counter the ‘no-smoke-without-fire’ accusations that will inevitably result from this latest scandal and the ongoing stain of operation puerto. And for goodness sake please can we have no more cocky fingerbangs! otherwise he will forever be the good athlete who is a bit of a prat, and maybe dodgy, rather than the great athlete and ambassador for the sport that he could be.

  • Mike

    As the rules state the athlete is responsible for what is in there body. Once you allow “it was the meat” excuse there is a ready made get out for all cheats. What next? the drugs were for my dog? As if.
    The most pressing question is why did the UCI hush this up. It has taken over a month to be made public, and only then by the media.
    It seems the UCI would rather sweep this under the carpet cos its the Tour, there flagship event.
    I believe it is time for new blood in our sports administration If we cant trust the curent encumbents.

  • Nevis the Cat

    Could the plasticisors have orginated from a saline drip, which is perfectly accepable?

  • Andrew Gannon

    One more thing check out how many scholarly articles De Boer has published on Clen…. 0 some expert

  • Andrew Gannon

    I think the experts are siding on the side of AC doping- Ramos quote below was sought out by New York times I have not seen him in any other media- check Google Scholar for his many published articles on human consumption of clen there are 5 pages full. Only one article can be found on non liver- (It concentrates there) poisoning of clen back in 1996 and I think that was tongue or lung. I am surprised that Ramos has not been pursued as a source.

    Fernando Ramos, a professor at the University of Coimbra in Portugal who has studied clenbuterol contamination in meat for 20 years, said it was highly unlikely that Contador tested positive from eating meat other than liver, noting that the concentration would have to be so high that the animal would have died before being slaughtered.

    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.”
    source New york Times

  • Brian

    @Chris Borrmann: Contador took drugs at the TDF when he knew he will be tested every day because dopers are drug addicted, in other words they are junkies. They cannot race, they cannot believe they can win/compete without doping.

    Cycling Weekly, for Xmas I will ask Santa Claus that he kicks out all Lance fanboys from your comments boards.

  • Matthew

    I could point out that Lance Armstrong has failed multiple tests, but as I’ll likely click on a story next week and read once again “Lance has never failed a test” in the comments, I really can’t be bothered.

  • Manni

    If you are a professional cyclist and racing clean, please, please, please let me know who you are, so I can support you… since 1998 I have trusted no one in the professional peloton… you all have question marks hanging over you… end the omerta, grow a pair, and stand up for yourselves… denounce the cheats that are denying you the chance to realise your sporting potential. How refreshing would it be to read an interview with a rider that states, ‘I hate racing against Bert Bloggs cos he’s a well-known blood manipulator’?

    I think the time has come for those that want a clean sport to form a breakaway organisation, completely separate from the sick joke that is the UCI, with doping control independent of the governing body, and lifetime bans for those caught cheating.

  • GM

    Thanks for not quoting Bernard Kohl, it is really annoying to read his whining.

  • Chris Borrmann

    I am not saying that Contador is innocent. but why would he take drugs when he knows he will be tested every day

  • AJ

    Cycling Weekly drug cheat stance:

    Lance Armstrong – tests negative so guilty,

    Alberto Contador- tests positive so innocent

  • John Calliott

    The media really has been rough on this. I hate to see experts deciding guilt or innocence based on test results they haven’t even seen. The Clenbuterol figures are at least official, but anonymous sources or leaks are the only source for all the other stuff. The NY Times source named a specific date for the plasticizers, but the AP one wouldn’t specify, so there were two different people with insider knowledge going to the press within 24 hours? A lot of people are going to be upset no matter what. If Contador isn’t banned, the best thing he could do is announce his VO2 Max & post all of his test results for the year.