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Original Issue

A Meaty Issue

The Alberto Contador drug case raises questions about cycling's control

Another positive drug test in cycling has yielded another sketchy alibi. In 2006, Tour de France winner Floyd Landis suggested that drinking Jack Daniels led to his positive test for elevated levels of testosterone. (Landis, who has since admitted that he doped, was stripped of his title.) Last week 2010 Tour winner Alberto Contador sought to explain his positive drug test by saying, in effect, It must have been something I ate. Contador's urine sample from July 21, a Tour rest day, showed trace amounts of Clenbuterol, a banned stimulant that builds lean muscle mass and is also used as an asthma medication.

In a Sept. 30 press conference, the 27-year-old Spaniard said that a steak he ate on the night before his test must have contained the drug. Paul Scott, an American lawyer who has defended clients against doping charges, calls Contador's bifteck defense plausible. Despite its illegality in Europe, Clenbuterol is sometimes fed to livestock to produce leaner meat. Scott says the drug is far more widespread in the environment than is commonly realized.

Contador has been provisionally suspended by his sport's governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale, which has once again shown ineptitude in an antidoping matter. Inexplicably, the UCI waited two months to announce this bombshell. The day before the news broke, reports German journalist Hans Joachim Seppelt, the UCI was denying that Contador had tested positive.

The UCI has long been accused of a lax approach to its antidoping responsibilities. The Wall Street Journal reported in August that the World Anti-Doping Agency intends to ramp up its oversight of cycling, in light of the UCI's unwillingness and/or inability to police itself. Whether Contador skates, is suspended for two years, or is stripped of his 2010 Tour title, it's time for the UCI to prove that it's serious about exposing drug cheats.


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HANDS OFF Whatever the cause of Contador's positive drug test, the question is, Why did the UCI sit on the results?