Category Archives: Ask the Scientist

Are Athletes at Risk from Meat Contamination?

For athletes that live, train, compete or visit countries abroad, meat contamination is a risk that may need to be taken into account.

Investigations have shown that certain countries have previously used a substance known as clenbuterol in order to increase the size of animals that will be used in the production of meat.

Clenbuterol is currently classified as an anabolic agent on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List. As a result, eating meat that has been contaminated with this substance could potentially lead to an Adverse Analytical Finding and a ban from sport.

Why? Well, athletes are solely responsible for any banned substance that is found in their system, regardless of how it got there or whether there was an intention to cheat or not.

Within the European Union (EU), using clenbuterol to increase the size of animals that will be used in the production of meat is prohibited by the Food Standards Agency and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate carries out surveillance on UK produce – including cattle, pigs, sheep, poultry, horses, game, rabbits and fish – for evidence of contamination.

Whilst International Federations and event organisers may attempt to reduce the risk of meat contamination at major events, by monitoring the meat used in official hotels and restaurants, athletes travelling outside of the EU should exercise caution.

WADA is also funding research into finding a way to tell whether clenbuterol found in an athlete’s urine sample is due to either meat contamination or prohibited use.

So, what can athletes do to reduce the risk of meat contamination? Here are UKAD’s top tips:

  1. Consult a registered nutritionist before travelling abroad
  2. Contact International Federations, NBGs or event organisers before travelling to an event
  3. Keep a record of when, where and how much meat has been consumed

For direct access to qualified sport and exercise nutritionists, who have the capacity to work with athletes and players of all abilities, please visit the SENr website.