Spain’s golden boy Alberto Contador—three-time winner of the Tour de France—was indicted on Feb. 6 by the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport for using performance-enhancing drugs. He was stripped of his 2010 Tour win and is banned from professional competition until August 2012. During the 2010 Tour, Contador failed a drug test by testing positive for the performance-enhancing drug clenbuterol, often used for weight-loss and muscle-building.
Contador plays an unfortunately dirty sport—according to the New York Times, since 1995, only two Tour de France winners have avoided doping scandals—and when high-profile cases like these hit, it tends to reflect badly on the supplements industry.
Contador’s defense circled around a tainted veal cut, bought for him by a friend and brought to his hotel in France. Farmers have been known to give cattle clenbuterol to up meat production, though Spain is not known specifically to have a problem with clenbuterol adulteration.
The Swiss court threw out Contador’s tainted meat defense—as well as another theory that a blood transfusion was responsible—and consensus seems to be gathering around everybody’s favorite culprit, adulterated supplements. And not without good reason: Contador is apparently a sports supplement enthusiast, and tainted supplements (and poorly labeled supplements) have been behind numerous high-profile doping scandals—consider, for example, Major League Baseball’s BALCO scandal or the DMAA issue, which is popping professional athletes left and right.
Of course, the aspersions are usually cast widely across the entire supplement industry, which is a bad thing. But consumers don’t seem to be getting the message that supplements are a regulated industry. And lip service to self-policing doesn’t seem to have any effect on curbing ingredient scandals just waiting to happen. All this coming in the middle of regulatory limbo, as we wait for FDA to respond to NDI comments.
The bad news is stacking up against industry at a crucial time. Somebody please give me some good news to report.