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China panics over meat-free diet for athletes
Reuters
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SHANGHAI: Chinese coaches and officials are panicking that meat-free diets imposed on Olympic athletes outside their training camps are hampering their performances in the lead-up to the London Games.

Chinese athletes have been ordered to minimize the risk of accidental doping from clenbuterol-tainted meat this year by steering clear of pork, lamb and beef.

The coach of the Chinese women’s volleyball team has blamed a three-week vegetarian diet for his team’s four straight defeats at the recent world grand prix tournament in Ningbo, China.

“They have showed a significant decline in their strength and fitness,” Yu Juemin told Beijing News after China lost in three sets to the U.S. Sunday.

“We dare not eat pork when we come out of our training camp for the tournament because we are afraid of clenbuterol,” the coach added. The ban on meat products came from China’s Sports Ministry this year, following a warning from the World Anti-Doping Agency issued last November about contaminated meat in China.

“WADA’s message to athletes competing in these countries remains the same: Eat only in restaurants and cafeterias that have been approved by your federation and/or event organizer,” it read.

An aquatics sports official recently said the all 196 athletes in his charge had not eaten pork – a staple food for Chinese – for 40 days, and were surviving on fish and protein powder, state news agency Xinhua reported.

China has been plagued by tainted food scandals in recent years. Last August, a Chinese court sentenced seven people to jail and handed down a suspended death penalty for selling clenbuterol to pork farmers.

China has managed to clear up its once poor reputation for doping in sport in recent years.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 04, 2012, on page 14.
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