I wasn’t planning on having to write this piece, and I wasn’t planning on having to bring this week’s column to you late. What you’ll read deeper into this week’s edition is the direction I’d hoped to go, discussing hour tournaments like the Olympic hockey spectacle and the Davis Cup and the Ryder Cup are essential buttresses for the professional game. I’d been captivated by a book I had picked up at the library recently and will get to sharing those thoughts soon enough.
But in a year where Spain was the top dog in everything from cycling’s showcase Tour de France to the FIFA World Cup to the tennis courts of the Grand Slams, the early announcement about the positive test of Alberto Contador had me putting down everything and getting out this tome. With another international competition, the UCI World Championships beginning in Australia, the revelation about the sport’s best all-around rider is damning.
Yes, cycling finds itself with another doping scandal on its hands. For most sports fans in America, the seemingly-constant cycle of cyclists testing positive for one drug or another is the only evidence they require to condemn the sport as irrevocably dirty. We’re always more willing to put on the blinders for what’s nearby than what’s out further on the horizon. For Spaniards, though, this news hits closer to home and could be the beginning of the end of their reign at the top of the sport. Already we’ve seen Alejandro Valverde sidelined. Igor Anton endured a nasty crash at the Vuelta, ending the country’s streak of wins in their national tour. And the biggest head is soon to be mounted on the wall in a sport with a tradition of pulling no punches when it comes to seeking fair play.
Cycling conducts more tests than any other sport, and thus it stands to reason that the sport would have more positive test results to reveal than any other. It is small solace for the Spaniards who stood behind Alberto through thick and thin, rejoicing in his victories and agonizing through his setbacks. They’ve also been hit with the positive by Vuelta runner-up Ezequiel Mosquera for hydroxyethyl starch, which boosts blood plasma and is often used as a masking agent for EPO. This is the dark side of nationalistic pride, of rooting for your own… when they reveal themselves to be human with all their character flaws, all that reflected greatness begins to wash away in a pool of contaminants. And doping, just like national pride, isn’t dependent on any one specific flag. So here’s the skinny on the Contador situation — info on the drug, past athletes to get popped for it and the prospects that Contador will beat the charges and race within the next two years:
Count Thursday, the 30th of September 2010, as a most dreadful day in the history defending Tour de France champion and five-time grand tour winner Alberto Contador. The Spaniard will be holding a press conference to discuss the revelations by the UCI that his A-sample tested positive for the drug clenbuterol while he was wearing the maillot jaune in the Tour. This particular sample, taken on the second rest day during the race’s final week, now will be held up to scrutiny against the B-sample. If the second comes up negative, Contador can take a deep sigh of relief and get on with the business of preparing for a two-tour assault next season as promised…
… but if it comes back positive as well, he has a long legal fight ahead of him. He’s already posturing himself, discussing how “food contamination” led to the presence of this drug in his system. But is this a viable defense? Will that really work? What exactly is this drug for which the sirens are wailing? Let’s take a look at the case staring down cycling’s biggest star of the moment and predict what is likely in store for the grand-tour dynamo.
CLENBUTEROL: WHAT IS IT?
It’s the first question we need to figure out… just what is this drug that appeared in Contador’s system? Clenbuterol is among the family of sympatomimetic amines that are often used as bronchodilators for asthmatic sufferers. It is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances, though, due to its abuse by athletes for the side effects it produces. An ingested drug in a similar class as ephedrine, the drug is especially prized for its ability to help stimulate the increase of lean muscle mass while burning fat. It is among the longest-lasting of this class of drugs (beta2-adrenergic agonists), absorbing 70-80% effectively with a 25- to 40-hour window of efficacy in the body. Thus, as it breaks down, the stimulating effects of the drug remain.
Of course, this isn’t always the best thing for the cardiovascular system, and hence the reason why sports have by and large banded together to prohibit its use. Indeed most nations (including the United States and the European Union countries) have realized that there are cheap, equally-if-not-more effective substitutes which are far safer and have banned the drug’s use among humans. It is still permitted for use in equine veterinary medicine to cure breathing disorders in horses, but Homo sapiens is not supposed to take this drug except in the most dire of situations where no other bronchodilator can be found in an emergency. But despite the FDA lack of approval, it doesn’t fall under the jurisdiction of the Controlled Substances Act.
This is a non-steroidal compound that has steroidal properties, making it an attractive proposition for athletes looking to avoid the androgenic and anabolic properties of steroids and their designer derivatives…. READ MORE HERE