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Chinese athletes turn vegetarian ahead of London Olympics

Press Trust of India  |  Beijing 

Yang Hongbo, head of catering for 700 always-hungry, high-performance athletes at the Jiangsu Sports Training Centre, said he is having a terrible time to find beef that is "safe" for his charges to eat.

He is worried if the athletes eat the meat of animals that were raised on feed containing clenbuterol, they may end up being disqualified.

Yang said he had contacted many slaughter houses throughout the province, and even travelled to Beijing several times to search a supplier that can guarantee additive-free beef.

"No company dares to sign a contract promising their meat does not contain clenbuterol or ractopamine," Yang told state run Global Times.

Both chemicals are added to animal feed to produce leaner meat. Ractopamine was banned in China late last year, but clenbuterol remains legal.

Neither is clenbuterol banned in many other countries, including the US and Canada.

The WADA has banned numerous athletes from competition who tested positive for clenbuterol, but those are presumed to be athletes who self-medicated with the drug to reduce fat and enhance their performance.

Last January, 700 athletes were barred from eating beef for 15 days after the General Administration of Sport of China found excessive levels of clenbuterol in their samples.

"I was at a total loss and did not know what to do except stop serving beef to the athletes," Yang said.

The country's national aquatics team fared even worse when their handlers' couldn't find additive-free meat. The team's 196 athletes weren't served beef, pork, or mutton for 40 days beginning in January.

"The athletes ate vegetarian dumplings for Spring Festival," said Li Zhongyi, a vice deputy of support services for the national aquatics team. MORE

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First Published: Mon, May 07 2012. 21:05 IST