China hits back at steroid meat charge

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has hit back at a report advising foreign athletes to avoid eating meat in the country due to what it said were increased risks of unintentional doping.

Germany's anti-doping agency (NADA) said there was a higher risk in China and Mexico of accidental doping and potential failed drug tests.

The report cited the alleged risks of the banned anabolic substance clenbuterol, which can be used to speed up and increase muscle mass in animals.

NADA subsequently warned German athletes visiting China to avoid eating meat where possible.

However, Zhao Jian, deputy director of the China Anti-Doping Agency, told the China Daily newspaper the Germans were over-reacting.

"Foreign athletes should be assured about the quality of food offered in China," he said.

"All food purchased for big sports events is closely examined," he said, towing a line China was forced to repeat frequently in the build-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

"There is also nothing to be afraid of for Chinese athletes, as domestic teams always train together and the food supplied for the training base is strictly inspected.

"China annually holds 100 to 200 domestic and international sports events," added Zhou. "The problem would have been exposed long before if any food was contaminated.

"We select 1,500 athletes at random for drug-testing every year, and the results rarely appear positive."

Zhao did acknowledge the existence of illegal methods to feed animals but dismissed its significance.

"There are some Chinese dealers who use illegal additives to feed animals and the substance might be left in the meat," he said. "But the chances of this leading to a positive drug test are very small."

Zhao accused NADA of singling out China and cast doubt on the scientific basis of their claims.

"Food contamination is a worldwide problem," he said.

"Any people or organizations should produce authoritative reports when evaluating food safety in another country, instead of misleading athletes with simple and separate statistics."

(Reporting by Alastair Himmer in Tokyo; Editing by Peter Rutherford)