IOC official dispels food defense
Posted: February 26th, 2011 - 10:09am
The IOC's top anti-doping official said he has seen no convincing evidence that athletes can inadvertently test positive for clenbuterol or other banned drugs by eating contaminated meat.
In an interview Friday with The Associated Press, Prof. Arne Ljungqvist said claims of food contamination in doping cases are "old stories" going back 30 years and have never been accepted by an international sports panel.
Ljungqvist, chairman of the International Olympic Committee's medical commission and vice president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said he remains dubious of claims of accidental doping — a defense that has been used by Tour de France champion Alberto Contador and others.
Ljungqvist said the sports world must continue to work on the principle of "strict liability," whereby athletes are held responsible for what's found in their system.
"Of course, any trial or court hearing would excuse a person if it could be 100 percent proven that it is an accidental matter, that it was totally beyond his or her possibility to check (for banned substances)," he said. "So far we haven't had such a case."
Ljungqvist said he could not comment specifically on Contador, who was cleared by the Spanish cycling federation this month after blaming his positive clenbuterol test during last year's Tour on eating contaminated Spanish beef.
The international cycling federation, UCI, is studying the Contador ruling before deciding whether to appeal. The World Anti-Doping Agency also can appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
"It's not the first time that a national federation excuses their own athlete," Ljungqvist said in a telephone interview from Sweden. "That's why we have this safeguard of an appeal system.
"We've had cases of that kind even as far back as the 1980s, and so far there has been no hearing panel that has accepted those arguments in the end," he added. "We've had national panels that have excused those athletes, but when it came to the final decision, they have all been ruled guilty."