Anti-Doping Agency Working on Hair Testing to Detect Clenbuterol

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The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is considering the introduction of hair testing analysis in addition to blood and urine testing. Anti-doping experts hope that hair analysis can detect whether drugs such as clenbuterol were ingested intentionally or innocently via contaminated food products.

Tour de France champion Alberto Contador tested positive for infinitesimally small amounts of clenbuterol. The detected levels were unlikely to have any type of performance-enhancing benefit for the athlete. However, WADA has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to clenbuterol so that any amount is sufficient to impose a ban.

Contador claims the clenbuterol present in his urine was the result of the consumption of meat contaminated with clenbuterol. Many experts think this is a very plausible explanation for the small amounts of clenbuterol discovered.

The use of hair analysis can detect whether clenbuterol was used to illicitly enhance performance. If hair samples contain significant amounts of clenbuterol, it suggests that the clenbuterol has been used over a period of time making it unlikely to be the result of accidental or unintentional consumption of a contaminated food product.

Using hair analysis for clenbuterol detection in not perfect. Experts are still debating whether or not to use it as a viable tool for anti-doping. One apparent problem is that clenbuterol “sticks” to dark hair better than “blonde” hair. This means that blonde-haired athletes would be less likely to be exonerated with clenbuterol hair analysis.

blonde and brunette hair

Photo credit: Millard Baker

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