Clenbuterol is not an anabolic steroid. Let me repeat that. Clenbuterol is not a steroid. After almost a decade of witch-hunts involving athletes using performance-enhancing drugs, you would think that most journalists would have a basic understanding of anabolic steroids. Just because a drug is a performance-enhancing drug (PED) doesn’t make it an anabolic steroid. Yet journalists seem to inaccurately identify PEDs such as human growth hormone (hGH), erythropoeitin (EPO) and clenbuterol as anabolic steroids when they have no pharmacological relation to the substances. With the media failing to do the most basic research on these substances, it is no wonder that most laypersons mistakenly assume that all performance-enhancing drugs are anabolic steroids; they are ignorant to the wide variety of drugs that comprise the banned substance list because the journalists who write about them are ignorant too.
The misinformation about anabolic steroids is amplified when one of the largest newspaper companies in the United States publishes a story calling clenbuterol an anabolic steroid. The McClatchy Company recently published an article originally entitled “In Mexico, soccer stars’ drug tests reveal steroids in meat” written by Tim Johnson that reported on the widespread use of the growth-promoter clenbuterol in Mexican cattle. An isolated article by a journalist in a small neighborhood newspaper probably doesn’t influence very many people. However, when the McClatchy Company publishes an inaccurate article about clenbuterol and steroids, it is distributed to over two million people daily around the United States.
The McClatchy Company is the “the third-largest newspaper company in the United States” and “a leading newspaper and digital publisher dedicated to the values of quality journalism, free expression and community service” according to its corporate website. It operates over 30 daily newspapers in 15 states along with the corresponding local websites.
The Tim Johnson article was reprinted using headlines such as “Much of Mexican meat tainted with steroids” and “Steroid-tainted beef making Mexicans sick” in major newspapers such as the Miami Herald, the Seattle Times, the Sacramento Bee, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The erroneous assertion that clenbuterol is a steroid was reiterated at least seven times in the article.
Much of Mexico’s beef is so tainted with the steroid clenbuterol that it sickens hundreds of people each year.
Use of the steroid is illegal. […]
The use of clenbuterol and the subject of steroid-tainted meat surged into headlines in Mexico last week when Mexico’s Soccer Federation announced the positive tests for the five players.[…]
The economic incentive for ranchers to use illegal steroids is great.
“A steer normally yields 55 percent meat. But a steer fed clenbuterol yields 62 to 65 percent,” said Martinez, who operates the Martin Butcher at a central Celaya market. He pulled out a calculator and showed how using the steroid for a month or two before slaughter can bring in an additional 100 pounds or more of beef for each steer. […]
Since 2007, Mexican law penalizes ranchers who use banned steroids in cattle with potential jail terms of seven years. But the law is widely disregarded.[…]
Martinez, who heads an association of 170 butchers in Celaya, said meat vendors occasionally had discussed not selling steroid-tainted beef. But there are always holdouts, and bribes reach into the local health departments, which look the other way.
Furthermore, as if clenbuterol wasn’t already having a bad day being demonized as an anabolic steroid, the author of the article also introduced a comparison between clenbuterol and cocaine.
“The use of this substance to fatten cattle is common,” financial journalist Enrique Campos Suarez wrote in the newspaper El Economista, adding that it got the moniker “cattle cocaine” because of the “enormous profits that are said to be earned in the industry by those who sell it.”
Of course, maybe I am expecting too much of journalists nowadays. After all, even the director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) seems to think that clenbuterol is an anabolic steroid. David Howman is shocked that clenbuterol is used to enhance growth in livestock apparently oblivious to its widespread use in Mexico and China. Then again, Howman also thinks that the steroids are more profitable than heroin. It’s funny how intent people are on comparing performance-enhancing drugs to highly-addictive narcotics such as cocaine and heroin.