All aquatic athletes seeking London 2012 selection for China are now seven weeks into a meatless diet to avoid the risk of doping positives by default in a country where clenbuterol is among substances fed, illegally, to livestock.
The count of those on a meatless mission is 196 in aquatic sports alone, according to news reports in China, where elite athletes in many sports are having to settle for fish, eggs and protein alternatives to meat in their diets.
China’s General Administration of Sport issued the meatless order in March after after Chinese Olympic judo champion Tong Wen was slapped with a two-year ban after banned substances were found in her bloodstream.
The suspension set alarm bells ringing, Huang Wenyi, who competes in Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls, writing on a blog that clenbuterol had even been found in pork and chicken products, not only in beef.
:Now the only place that we could eat safely turns out to be our cafeteria," Lu Yong, Beijing men’s 85kg weightlifting champion wrote on his blog. "It’s a disaster for athletes as the prohibited substance in over 52 per cent of the meat products in Beijing has exceeded the drug test standard."
In swimming, clenbuterol has long caused athletes a problem come testing time, the biggest case of late that of Jessica Hardy (USA), who tested positive at the US Olympic trials and was dropped from the US team at the start of a year-long suspension. Her argument that she had unknowingly taken the drug in a contaminated food supplement was accepted by anti-doping authorities and Hardy will race for a place on the 2012 team this June.