Tag Archives: China

Clenbuterol

Michael Rogers, back when he was riding for Team Sky

Michael Rogers, back when he was riding for Team Sky

Today, yet another cyclist – Belgian rider Jonathan Breyne of UCI Continental Pro team Crelan-Euphony – has tested positive for the banned substance, Clenbuterol, following his ride at the Japan Cup in October 2013. This follows hot on the heels Michael Rogers’ positive test (pictured) for the same substance earlier this week, following his victory at the same event. Both riders had previously been racing in China the week before. Coincidence?

I’m no chemist, so much of the information I’ve pulled together here is from secondary sources.

Clenbuterol’s main legitimate use is as a prescription drug for those with severe breathing difficulties. It is a stimulant and increases aerobic capacity; it doesn’t take much to understand why it is a banned substance for all sports around the world. The now-notorious EPO does much the same thing. It also makes the body burn fat faster and more efficiently, which has led to it being used as a weight-loss drug by some celebrities and it is commonly pushed as a “fat burning pill“. It is also very popular on the bodybuilding scene. The trouble is, it is prohibited in the EU and the USA for just about everything, other than in limited medical and veterinary circumstances. It is possible to obtain it in the EU / USA, much like other illegal drugs can be obtained in very specific circumstances, but for someone who just wants to pop a few pills to help with weight loss, that isn’t going to happen. However, like most things in the modern age, it can easily be obtained on the internet – and the main place to get it is China. Even in China, its general use is illegal – but it still occasionally crops up as a food additive, owing to China’s more lax farming controls.

It doesn’t take much effort to locate sources of Chinese Clenbuterol all over the internet. The Qufu Xindi Chemical Research Company don’t advertise it on their official chemical product list, but they are quite clearly selling the substance on other sites. It is easily obtained on forums and even sites openly selling performance-enhancing drugs, which aren’t even legal in the UK. Steroid Supplier and Muscle Junkies are two other such sites I’ve found in the last couple of minutes, and I’m sure I could easily find more. The thing they all have in common is the source: China. This is also where both Reyne and Rogers claim they have unwittingly taken the substance, and both blame it on contaminated food, as have many other athletes before them.

While with Jonathan Tiernan-Locke I’m still very much undecided, when it comes to Michael Rogers I find myself a lot less supportive. Rogers left Team Sky just as their anti-doping charter was drawn up and he had refused to sign it. He left swiftly and joined a lesser team, Saxo-Tinkoff. Rogers is also known to have visited Michele Ferrari, Lance Armstrong’s now infamous doctor who was at the centre of the world’s biggest ever doping scandal, back in 2005 and 2006. I read Tyler Hamilton’s book, The Secret Race, and am left in no doubt that people only went to see Ferrari because they wanted performance-enhancing drugs. He is utterly discredited. As such, for me, there is too much smoke around Michael Rogers to give him the benefit of the doubt unconditionally. His argument around contaminated food may have some merit, but consider that even the Chinese national team banned their own athletes from eating Chinese meat ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games so that they wouldn’t run the risk of ingesting any Clenbuterol. The same argument was used by Alberto Contador back in 2012 and it didn’t work then. UCI rules also make it absolutely clear (s.21, p.6) that it is the rider’s responsibility to control exactly what goes into their bodies. It beggars belief that in a country notorious for food contamination that teams – especially a WorldTour team like Saxo-Tinkoff – wouldn’t be aware of that.

What will ultimately decide the fate of Rogers and Reyne is the quantity of Clenbuterol in their systems, and this is the great unknown right now until proper hearings are held. Both Rogers and Reyne have tested positive for the substance in a China, where it is notoriously added to food to “bulk up” livestock. It is also the country where it is easier to get hold of than anywhere else in the world. Coincidence? We shall soon see.

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Real or Fake?

Much like football supporters, cyclists often like to wear the team kits of their favourite stars and I’m no exception. Regular readers of this blog will know I’m quite the Team Sky fan, as well as being a regular follower of the GB National Team, and own a pile of cycling-related junk relating to both of them. Eventually, I decided I wanted to wear the kit as well, and wondered if a bit of Wiggo’s speed or Trotty’s skill would rub off on me.

Football shirts are often seen as a rip-off, but compared to the price of official team kits for cycling, they are a bargain. I was astounded at the cost of a (mostly) polyester and Lycra jersey. To kit myself out in Team Sky clothing would set me back something in the region of £175; more if I went the whole hog with gloves, overshoes and helmet. I found this staggering. Since Rapha Condor took over the clothing sponsorship for Sky, the prices have got even higher and a full jersey / shorts combination, made from exactly the same materials as the pros wear, will set you back closer to £300. These prices are staggeringly high. Of course, it doesn’t matter if you are one of the handful of pros riding for Sky, but for the rest of us, it feels like a bit of a rip-off, no matter how well made they are. These kits aren’t bespoke tailoring; they’re mass-market sportswear. If you crash and rip your jersey, that’s a big investment just gone down the plughole.

Having even a brief look at eBay, you will see how much these prices have fuelled a massive market for counterfeit clothing. At a conservative estimate, searching for “cycling team jersey” on eBay will return 90% Chinese copies of genuine team kit. The prices for these are considerably lower, and even including shipping, a jersey / shorts combination won’t set you back more than about £20 – probably around £150 cheaper than the genuine article.

I wondered – are they any good? I’d seen one of my work colleagues with some fake BMC gear from eBay and couldn’t spot the difference, so I decided to have a go myself. I purchased a couple of Team Sky kits from China and they duly arrived about a fortnight later.

I was surprised at the quality and feel of the kits. There was no poor quality printing, no cheap feel to the material, no glaring errors on the kit – in short, none of the shortcomings I expected to find. I tested the kits out on a couple of bike rides and found them both comfortable and durable. They’ve all been through the wash several times and still look as good as they day they were purchased.

When I went into Evans Cycles last week, I handled the real team kit. Apart from the Rapha logo on the left blue stripe being made out of a sort of raised gel-type printing on the genuine shirt (just printed on mine) and a slight variation on the “Believe in Better” slogan on the inside of the neck, the genuine Team Sky kit felt and looked the same in every way. I felt disappointed that this jersey, on sale for £75, had been equalled by a Chinese copy costing around 1/4 the price. Advocates of the genuine article may say, “The real ones are made of better material!” or “They last longer!” but that hasn’t been my experience in the last few months. Instead, it feels like there is rampant profiteering on the “official” kits – which cost far more than any Premiership football shirt. Perhaps it’s because cycling is a sport that appeals to the well-heeled who are prepared to spend money on flashy accessories and glamorous kit, but I can’t help but feel that the manufacturers are just taking advantage. This will surely fuel far-eastern counterfeiting in the future, and teams will lose out on sales altogether.

With all these thoughts in my head, I looked inside the Team Sky jersey to see where it had come from just before I put it back on the rack.

Printed on a white panel inside, it simply said, “Made in China”.

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