Clenbuterol: What is this popular boxing PED?
On Friday, the Nevada State Athletic Commission temporarily suspended middleweight boxing star Canelo Alvarez due to his two positive tests for the banned substance Clenbuterol.
The commission's move puts Canelo's scheduled rematch with Gennady Golovkin, easily one of the biggest fights of the year, in jeopardy.
Alvarez, of course, blamed contaminated meat, which he insists he consumed in Mexico, for the positive result.
In the United States and much of Europe, its illegal to give Clenbuterol to animals that will be used for human consumption. However, no such illegality exists in Mexico.
So what is Clenbuterol?
For starters, Alvarez isn't the only boxer to have tested positive for the drug. Erik Morales did so in 2012 and heavyweights Lucas Browne and Alexander Povetkin have within the past two years.
Similar to but more effective than ephedrine, Clenbuterol (or Clen) is also a powerful fat-burner and effective appetite suppressant. And although its known most for its weight loss properties, Clenbuterol was created to treat respiratory ailments so it can also enhance cardiovascular efficiency in athletes.
Clenbuterol has been shown to to have anabolic (or body-building) properties too but they are secondary to its weight loss/fat burner attributes.
Although the drug is not approved for human use in the U.S., its a near carbon copy of albuterol, which is commonly prescribed to treat asthma. In the U.S., Clenbuterol is only FDA-approved when prescribed by a veterinarian for use in horses.
Its side effects in humans include nervousness, insomnia, muscle cramps and even cardiac hypertrophy.
How strong is Canelo's excuse?
In 2016, FightSaga's Mark Weber caught up with expert drug testing correspondent Rafael Silva who shed light on the issue following the Francisco Vargas Clenbuterol failed drug test.
In a statement released to the public, Golden Boy Promotions, who handled Vargas, claimed Clenbuterol may have entered their fighter's system through contaminated meat in Mexico.
"Clenbuterol is used as a bronchodilator in animals in quite a few countries outside the US," Silva told FightSaga.
"If Vargas consumed meat from an animal that had been treated, it is possible [traces could be found in his system], though not probable."
"He would have had to have eaten a large amount of it."
"It's [Clenbuterol] detectable for, at most, a week with full dosage, so obviously eating it from a source like meat would provide minimal dosage and a minimal detection time."
"Vargas would have had to have consumed the meat, and then be tested once the contents entered his blood stream a few hours later."
Did Vargas and Canelo consume contaminated meat and subsequently get tested in that small window?
"It's definitely possible [consuming Clenbuterol through animal meat,] but in this [Vargas] situation I highly doubt it was cross contamination."
"He probably needed to cut weight and wanted to use Clenbuterol to do so," the insightful Silva added.
In Canelo's defense, Clenbuterol is known more for its cosmetic effects than for building strength. However, the cardio boost one can get from the drug certainly makes it a performance enhancer.