0.00000000005 grams

The UCI reports that’s the level of clenbuterol found in Pistolero’s system

Clenbuterol is available for veterinary use to treat horses with respiratory problems. It’s a bronchodilator like the more familliar albuterol / salbutamol inhalers used by asthmatics all around the world, but more stronger and with scarier side effects. It also has the interesting property of increasing muscle-to-fat ratio in humans and animals. In the United States, Clen is illegal for human use, but is approved for treating asthmatic horses through injection.

Alberto Contador’s claim that he ingested the drug through eating meat is at least plausible — the drug is used ilegally in livestock to bulk them up in the same way as bodybuilders, though news reports of clenbuterol animal doping all seem to come from China. One has to wonder how Contador knows it came through his meal if he’s as innocent as he claims. Maybe his team doctor knew how to get the right kind of enhanced steak for his cyclists?

Polish sprint canoer Adam Seroczyński was disqualified for taking clenbuterol after finishing fourth in the K-2 1000 m event at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, and Chinese cyclist Li Fuyu tested positive for it at the Dwars door Vlaanderen race in Belgium on March 24, 2010.


  1. The beef in question came from Spain, where it sounds like clenbuterol is still fairly commonly used to promote lean muscle growth in livestock (even though it is still illegal). Knowing that…I can understand how Contador would make the assumption that the steak was the likely culprit…if in fact he is innocent.

  2. Those are reports from 15-20 years ago. Anything more recent? It’s not surprising veal liver would have higher concentrations than other tissues, probably why the overdoses were reported in liver-eaters. As for the low concentrations, what if AC was using Clenbuterol back in the winter in higher doses, also auto-doping. Given what we know about microdosed epo escaping detection and it’s use with autologous blood doping to evade the biological passport, it seems reasonable that he transfused a small amount of contaminated blood on the rest day, resulting in extremely low levels.

  3. The amount is just too small. 1/400th of the limit and well within the amount one could be exposed to via the environment. It could be the meat Albert suggested or it could be nearly anything. Testing for such small amounts could get positive results for any number of proscribed substances given how polluted our food sources have become.

    I like drug scandals as much as the next guy but come on, give me some meat not this phantom accusation. All this does is point out how incredibly silly the methods of drug testing used in professional cycling are. 5 trillionths of a gram is a very wee amount.

  4. Actually that 1/400th figure was a mistake that was initially reported by the UCI. The 50-picogram amount that was found is really 1/40th WADA’s minimum detection level. That’s still a very small amount though that makes the meat defense seem pretty credible.Joe Lindsay makes some good points about this in his recent Boulder Report article . He points out that Fuyu Li’s clenbuterol levels last year were trace amounts similar to Contador’s. Li maintained his innocence saying he had no idea where it came from, but he was suspended and no one really gave it much thought. I tend to believe both Contador and Li for the reasons Duncan mentioned above. There are so many environmental factors that the riders can’t control, and in both cases the amounts were insignificant from a performance benefit standpoint. I’m not sure what will come of this, but regardless of the result it will be interesting to see how this case plays out.

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