Recently the NFL and the NFL Players Association has issued a warning to all players about consuming meat from Mexico and China due to the potential contamination from clenbuterol, a performance enhancing drug. Clenbuterol is an anabolic agent which is banned by the NFL Policy on Performance-Enhancing Substances.
This comes on the heels of a positive test for clenbuterol on Duane Brown of the Houston Texans last year. Mr. Brown faced a 10 game suspension for violating the league’s policy. After a months-long process, in April the NFL Players Association successfully proved he had eaten tainted meat in Mexico while on a bye week trip and was cleared of wrongdoing. This prompted the memo as a warning to all players that they would be responsible for what ended up in their bodies.
We are seeing several recent tweets by players such as Patrick Peterson and Steve Smith Sr with a picture of this memo.
This is hardly the first time clenbuterol has turned up in the headlines. According to ESPN, boxer Francisco Vargas tested positive for clenbuterol, which is banned in the sport, last month. Alberto Contador, a three time Tour de France winner was stripped of his title after testing positive in 2010 due to tainted meat from Spain. Five members of the Mexican national soccer team tested positive in 2011 from meat served at their own training camp cafeteria.
What Is Clenbuterol?
Clenbuterol, which appeared in 1990, is part of a family of substances known as beta-agonists that increase lean muscle mass and speed up metabolic rates in animals. Once used for show animals, it slowly made its way onto animal feed lots, only to be banned in most developed countries by 2000.
According to Tim Johnson from McClatchy DC:
What clenbuterol does is reduce the quantity of fat and increase muscle volume. But the muscle retains a lot of water, adding weight to livestock. The ranchers use it because it helps their cattle bulk up and makes ranchers more money.
Clenbuterol is a selective beta-2 agonist/antagonist and a bronchodilator. In the U.S., it’s only FDA-approved when prescribed by a veterinarian for use in horses.
In 2006, more than 300 people in China became ill after eating clenbuterol-tainted meat. Residues can affect lung and heart function in persons who have eaten liver or meat of animals given the drug. Clenbuterol can cause heart palpitations, tremors, dizziness, nausea and anxiety in people who ingest it or the meat tainted with it. The symptoms usually only last two to six days.
My suggestion? Always buy organic, grass fed/pasture raised beef. If you can obtain the country of origin, great! Unfortunately, the current Country of Origin labeling requirements were amended in 2016 to remove the need to label beef and pork to “bring the United States into compliance with its international trade obligations.” Luckily, there are good companies out there who voluntarily label their meat, giving you the ability to vote with your dollars.
To learn more about the beef industry, check out “Defending Beef” by Nicolette Hahn Niman.