It’s In the Meat

Written by on February 2, 2012 in Food & Diet, Nutrition, Sport Nutrition, Sports - No comments

Photo By Laurent Brun from France, used under GNU collective License

February 6 is just around the corner. To most people this does not mean much. However to Alberto Contador this day means everything. This is the day that the UCI and WADA are to decide on his doping allegation.

For those of you who do not follow cycling, Contador tested positive for the use of Clenbuterol. Clenbuterol HCl is a beta-adrenergic agonist that is used illegally in the United States and Europe to increase the leanness and protein content of cattle, swine and horses. The amount of Clenbuterol found in Contador’s blood was very minute. It was below the normal testing threshold, and not present in the blood on the prior day or following day. Contador’s defense to the doping allegations was that he had eaten Clenbuterol contanimanated meat.

The purpose of this article is not to clear Contador, but to give light on the validity of his claim. Lets begin by looking at this in a pure logical sense. If a person, or an animal, is injected with a drug like Clenbuterol or other anabolic steroid, then the drug is in their blood, their muscle, and in their fat. It is in them. Now, if  another person or animal eats meat from the injected animal, it only is logical that the drug would transfer to the other organism. We are what we eat eats.

Some refuse to believe that the food we eats effect our health.  In August 1996, 62 people were admitted into the emergency rooms of 2 hospitals near the city of Caserta (Italy). “Their clinical profile was characteristic of previously occurring clenbuterol intoxication, which reported superventricular extrasystoles and atrial fibrillation. All patients had non-liver beef meat consumption 10-30 min to 2-3 h before symptoms developed (Sporano et al., 1998).”  The study performed by Sporano et al. (1998) confirmed using mass spectrometry that the non liver meat eaten by these people was indeed contaminated with clenbuterol. It was also confirmed that clenbuterol was in the blood stream of the patients. This case confirmed that “clenbuterol poisoning can also occur after consumption of beef meat other than liver (Sporano et al., 1998).”

You might be thinking that this is an isolated event. The truth is, that it is not. Dr. Michael Wayne (2009) in his blog discussed in detail how the steroids and growth hormones used by cattle growers taints the meat we eat. In particular, young children had extreme spikes in hormonal levels following eating meat that was treated with growth hormones such as rgbh-1. In the early 1980’s, thousands of children in Peurto Rico experienced premature sexual development and painful ovarian cysts. According to Dr. Michael Wayne,  the culprit was identified to be meat from cattle who had been treated with growth-promoting sex hormones.

Transfer of steriods and antibiotics has also been proven in the laboratory. In a study performed by the norwegian Institute of Sports Medicine in conjunction with Kings college in London (Kieman et al., 1994), Ten olympic weight lifters were tested before and after consuming meat from livestock (in this case chickens) that were either fed or injected the anabolic steroid Methenelone. What the found was that if chickens were given the steroid mixed with there food, there was very little to no detectable transference methenelone to the athlete. However, if the chicken was given an injected dose of the steroid, then there was enough detectable  steriod or its metabolite in the system of the athlete to trigger a positive test. This is huge.

This means that as athletes, we must be concerned about our meat sources. High quality organic, free range meat is preferred. Since athletes are accountable for testing positive even if consumption was by accident, it is important for us to know if growth hormone was used. Unfortunately the FDA does not require the meat packer to reveal this. Therefore get your meat from trusted sources.

As for Contador, I do not know if he is innocent or not. I do know however that his claim of getting clenbuterol from tainted meat is not without merit. Maybe, we, as fans, should not be so quick to judge.

Kieman, A., Cowan, D., Myhre, L., Nilsson, S., Tomten, S., & Oftebro, H. (1994). Effect on sports drug tests of ingesting meat from steroid (methenlone)-treated livestock. Clinical Chemistry40(11), 2084-2087.
Sporano, V., Grasso, L., Esposito, M., Oliviero, G., Brambilla, G., & Loizzo, A. (1998). Clenbuterol residues in non-liver containing meat as a cause of collective food poisoning. Journal of Veterinarian and Human Toxicology40(3), 141-143.
Wayne, M. (2009, September 25). The meat you eat: Steroid use in livestock [Web log post]. Retrieved February 2, 2012, from


Wayne Pedranti

About Wayne Pedranti

Wayne Pedranti is a traditional Naturopath and a Master Herbalist. He is a Master Level Certified Sports Nutrition Adviser educated at the Cory Holly Institute. He has been cycling for well over 20 years, and is a licensed coach with USA Cycling and USA Track and Field. He has a Masters Degree in Coaching Education at Ohio University. He uses his training on natural health and coaching to build a comprehensive training plans that builds health, fitness, and performance.

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