Chinese officials and coaches are blaming the struggles of their Olympic athletes on meat-free diets imposed to avoid potential disqualification from the London Games by testing positive for clenbuterol, according to media reports.
Chinese athletes have largely been made to cut out pork, lamb and beef, but coaches say it is hurting their performance. The women’s volleyball coach, for example, attributed a four-game losing streak at a recent tournament to three weeks on a vegetarian diet, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“They have showed significant decline in their strength and fitness,” Yuy Juemin reportedly told the Beijing News after China lost to the U.S. on Sunday. “We dared not eat pork when we come out of our training camp for the tournament because we are afraid of clenbuterol.”
China’s Sports Ministry banned meat products from its athletes’ diets following a warning late last year from the World Anti-Doping Agency concerning tainted meat in China and Mexico.
A Chinese aquatics sports official said recently that all of his 196 athletes had not eaten pork for 40 days, surviving instead on fish and protein powder, state news agency Xinhua reported.
Clenbuterol-laced food is a touchy subject in China, where last year a court sentenced more than 100 people and issued a suspended death penalty in a scandal over tainted pork.
Around the same time last year, Mexican soccer players competing in the Under-17 World Cup blamed positive tests for clenbuterol on contaminated beef they’d eaten.