The secondary title to this piece is “Hey, I didn’t take clenbuterol recently!”
Are we looking at the time-shifted positive dope test? And, if so, would it make any difference in the analysis?
The concept I’m suggesting is as follows: Traces of a banned performance enhancing drug (i.e., PED) showing up in one’s blood stream because of the re-introduction of blood cells via a transfusion (i.e., blood doping) has the unwanted secondary effect of time-shifting the presence of that PED from then to now.
To put it plainly, the PED is used by an athlete at a prior date, pre-competition, the resulting benefits realized at that time. Secondly, at some intermediate point in time, the athlete removes and stores some of his own blood (said to be around 4 pints). Thirdly, the athlete re-introduces his own packed blood cells via a transfusion during competition (in this instance, on July 21 in Pau, the rest day of the Tour). Then, finally, a drug test performed by a regulatory agency finds trace amounts of that PED in a blood sample taken following the athletes transfusion of the older, tainted, stored blood.
The epilogue to this sorted tale is that Christmas may have come a little early this year. Real early. As in July.
Rasmus Damsgaard, who previously ran the internal anti-doping programme in the Astana team, has already suggested that the Clenbuterol traces might be linked to a transfusion of blood taken out earlier in the season.
“If the data is correct then it’s most likely that it is a ‘Landis’,” Damsgaard told Danish TV station TV2 via SMS. “It would suggest that he has received a transfusion of his own blood, taken out a few months earlier when he used clenbuterol, which he has gotten back into his body.”
Can this prove doping? Should it?
A lot more on the topic over at sportsscientists.com.
Update: Another piece up at sports.espn.go.com.
I’d like to draw your attention to this portion of the interview:
The concentration of clenbuterol in Contador’s urine sample was extremely low, but within the context of current anti-doping rules, that doesn’t matter. As WADA director David Howman told the Associated Press, clenbuterol is not “a threshold substance,” meaning an accused athlete is accountable for it whether the quantity is large or infinitesimal. The amount found in Contador’s sample has been described as 40 times less than what a WADA lab is required to be able to detect, but again, that refers to a standard for lab performance and is irrelevant to an athlete’s guilt or innocence under the WADA code.
However, many experts agree that testing methods for clenbuterol have become so sensitive, it is now being detected at non-performance enhancing levels, opening up a debate about whether WADA should establish a threshold. Paul Scott, a lawyer who has helped many athletes defend themselves against doping charges, said the small amount of clenbuterol found in Contador’s samples mean that it was “impossible” he took it for doping purposes during the race. “You’re going to see a lot more of these [positives] if WADA doesn’t change their policy,” he said. Id.