Rogers blames tainted food from China trip for positive clenbuterol test

Australian former world champion, who raced Tour of Beijing before the Japan Cup, blames tainted food

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

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MILAN (VN) — Michael Rogers (Saxo-Tinkoff) is pointing to Chinese food for a recent anti-doping positive for clenbuterol.

In his first statement since cycling’s world governing body, the UCI, announced his adverse analytical finding for the synthetic bronchodilator on Wednesday, Rogers blamed the “serious problem” of food contamination in China. Rogers tested positive at the Japan Cup, which he won, on Oct. 20.

“I would like to make it very clear, in the strongest terms possible, that I have never knowingly or deliberately ingested Clenbuterol,” Rogers said in a statement released on his Twitter account. “I understand that it has been acknowledged by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) as well as other anti-doping bodies, that food contaminated with clenbuterol is a serious problem in China.”

Rogers raced to 11th overall at the Tour of Beijing in October before traveling to Japan, where he topped Kiwi Jack Bauer (Garmin-Sharp). The UCI provisionally suspended the Australian former time trial world champion on Wednesday.

His boss and new team owner Oleg Tinkov said that he supports Rogers.

“I hope that @mickrogers’ case is just misapprehension,” Tinkov wrote on Twitter. “He will prove that he was clear. I trust him, and believe in him.”

Clenbuterol is a synthetic bronchodilator often prescribed to asthma sufferers. It is also regarded as a stimulant and has recently been used in off-label prescriptions as a weight-loss drug akin to ephedrine. The drug is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned substances list and is specifically banned under Article 21 of the UCI’s anti-doping rules.

Clenbuterol has been used by meat producers as a non-steroidal means of increasing muscle-to-fat ratios, although the method is banned in most countries. There have been several documented cases of food-borne clenbuterol contamination, including in the United States and Europe, although the most notable occurred in China. In the U.S., the only permitted veterinary use of the drug is to address respiratory ailments in horses.

While banned, there has been little history of enforcement and meat producers have been known to use the drug to enhance the production of lean meats. China’s Ministry of Agriculture banned the use of clenbuterol in livestock following a 2011 scandal involving one of the country’s largest meat processing companies.

Rogers’ current teammate Alberto Contador lost his victories at the 2010 Tour de France and 2011 Giro d’Italia over a positive clenbuterol test at the former. Contador contested his innocence, blaming contaminated beef for the trace amounts of the drug found in his blood during the 2010 Tour, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that he must serve a ban and forfeit results.

China: ‘A serious problem’

The World Anti-Doping Agency issued a statement two years ago warning athletes traveling in Mexico and China, recommending they eat in approved restaurants: “It has been shown that Mexico and China have a serious problem with meat contaminated with the prohibited substance clenbuterol, and WADA’s message to athletes competing in these countries remains the same: eat only in restaurants and cafeterias that have been approved by your federation and/or event organizer.”

If Rogers consumed contaminated food, it is unclear when that would have happened. He stayed at the hotels provided by the Tour of Beijing but may have dined outside after or before the race. In past Tours of Beijing, riders avoided eating meat entirely.

The 34-year-old is no stranger to controversy. He won three time trial world titles but one, in 2003, came thanks to David Millar confessing to EPO use. After helping Bradley Wiggins win the Tour de France in 2012, he left Sky when it reenforced its zero-tolerance anti-doping pledge. Sky denied it had to due with his past, but Rogers worked with known doping doctor Michele Ferrari. He said that he only received training plans.

“It was an error to go to him. He didn’t have the best name in the industry, but that was the mistake I made … I certainly regret [it],” Rogers told the Sydney Morning Herald last year. “Since then I have had absolutely no contact with Ferrari whatsoever.”

While he escaped without a racing ban after working with Ferrari, Rogers now must make his case for a reduced ban. He may request that his B sample be tested, and he may attend the procedure. Rogers explained that he would meet with the UCI to argue his contamination case.

“I will give my full attention and cooperation to resolve this issue in the quickest time frame possible,” he said.

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