October 18 - There are growing fears among the 6,000 athletes from the 42 competing nations competing here at the Pan American Games regarding the fact that meat across Mexico is contaminated with the banned anabolic steroid clenbuterol.

The issue was very much a live one heading into the event but has dramatically increased in magnitude this week after tests conducted in a laboratory in Germany showed that the majority of the players who competed at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Mexico earlier this year returned positive doping tests due to the contaminated meat with 19 of the 24 teams having squad members with traces of clenbuterol in their bodies.

The banned anabolic agent was found in 109 of 208 urine samples taken at the tournament but FIFA and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) decided not to prosecute in of the any cases because the weight of evidence pointed to meat contamination.

The Organising Committee have claimed that they are confident the problem will not reoccur at the Pan American Games with Carlos Andrade Garin, the director of Guadalajara 2011, trying to offer assurances that the athletes would be fine as long as the stick to the food in the Athletes' Village.

"We are obviously aware of the problem and of what has happened before [regarding the positive tests from the FIFA Under-17 World Cup] but we are doing our best to control the issue here," he said.

"The meat at the Athletes' Village is 100 per cent reliable and we have urged the teams to stick to that.

"We know where it has come from and we have no doubts.

"The meat has been analysed and is being watched by police to avoid any chance of contamination so we do not expect problems if the teams follow our advice."

WADA has issued a statement before the Pan American Games began advising athletes travelling to Mexico to "exercise extreme caution with regards to what they eat and where they eat while the organisation's legal director Olivier Niggli highlighted the seriousness of the issue saying that it "would be perfect excuse for those who try to use doping."

The majority of the teams have admitted that they are doing everything in their power to avoid contaminated meat with United States Olympic Committee (USOC) chief of sport performance Alan Ashley saying that his team are taking the upmost care in Guadalajara.

"That's one of the things that we really try to advise them, that you've got to really watch out where you eat," said Ashley.

"They're quite used to this because in their daily lives, almost everywhere they go around the world, they're faced with eating choices and nutritional choices.

"Even if the water's purified, if it's just a different culture and a different community, it sometimes upsets you.

"Ultimately, we really just stay on the safe side because all the training, all the time, all the effort to come here, you don't want that to be the one thing that messes up your ability to compete well."

Dr Andrew Marshall, the chief medical officer of Canada's Pan American Games delegation, also said his team will be taking extra care following the revelations from the FIFA Under-17 World Cup - a tournament won by the host country Mexico - but praised the Organising Committee for ensuring safe meat in the Athletes'' Village.

"The Organising Committee have known about the issue for a long time and have been very diligent to ensure that they can guarantee safety of the food in the Village," he said.

"But while you can guarantee it in the Athletes Village, you cannot guarantee it anywhere else, even in high-quality restaurants in town, so we are being diligent."

The problems steams from the face that rogue Mexican farmers illegally inject clenbuterol into their cattle because the drug reduces fat and increases lean meat in cattle.

It is a practice that continues despite being outlawed in Mexico but health official Mikel Arriola added authorities have begun a programme of arresting farmers and shutting down slaughterhouses to stop the issue from continuing.

"We are going to continue these inspections in order to avoid poisoning the general population and doping [athletes]," he said.

-Tom Degun

Source: www.insidethegames.biz