The question is no longer “Where’s the beef?” but where’s the beef containing clenbuterol. Or the chicken, too, for that matter.
Athletes such as American football players have been warned to mind their meals while in Mexico as the risk of inadvertently ingesting beef and chicken containing the steroid remains high.
Despite being banned and supposedly controlled by Mexican authorities, the use of clenbuterol is reported to be widespread among ranchers who feed it to their livestock to boost metabolism and burn fat, thereby increasing yields.
Last last year, government officials inspected 200 slaughterhouses and found clenbuterol in livestock at 58 of them.
Athletes both national and foreign have been affected, testing positive for the prohibited performance-enhancing drug.
That was the case with five soccer players on Mexico’s national team who tested positive in 2011. After reviewing the meals they had eaten the source was found, but by then the players had already missed a major international tournament.
A professional football player from the United States found himself in the same position after spending a week in Mexico last year. Only by providing details of what and where he ate was he able to clear himself and avoid a 10-game suspension.
The National Football League issued a memo this week to players, warning them against consuming meat products from Mexico and China. “Players are responsible for what is in their bodies. Consuming large quantities of meat while visiting those particular countries may result in a positive test.”
A similar warning has been issued by Conade, the National Sports Commission, as the presence of the steroid in athletes’ meals has caused problems for the commission before.
Conade said last week that coaches are keeping a special watch on meat supplied to athletes ahead of this summer’s Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.
”We should be conscious and careful about the kind of meat that is selected” for athletes, said Conade director Alfredo Castillo, who added that organic beef, chicken, fish and pork could be safer alternatives.
The warnings almost came too late for super featherweight boxer Francisco “Bandido” Vargas, who tested positive last week for clenbuterol.
Wishing to make it clear that he had not taken the drug intentionally, Vargas told reporters on Tuesdays that the positive test results were a result of eating contaminated meat for lunch and breakfast on Wednesday and Thursday.
Vargas is preparing for a fight on June 4 in California, where officials are reportedly strict about such things. To avoid ingesting clenbuterol again he intends to move his training camp to the United States and abstain from eating chicken or beef products in the meantime.