- Associated Press - Friday, June 10, 2011

MEXICO CITY (AP) - The Mexican government said Friday its beef doesn’t contain clenbuterol, hurting the defense of five soccer players suspended after testing positive for the banned substance.

Goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, defenders Francisco Rodriguez and Edgar Duenas, and midfielders Christian Bermudez and Antonio Naelson “Sinha” were removed from El Tri’s Gold Cup team on Thursday after the Mexican soccer federation said they tested positive for clenbuterol during a pre-tournament training camp on the outskirts of Mexico City. Hector Gonzalez Inarritu, Mexico’s team director, blamed the positive results on eating contaminated beef.

But the health department said Friday that cases of contaminated beef in Mexico are fewer than one in a million.

Gonzalez Inarritu said the suspended players were to travel to Los Angeles on Friday for further tests, and CONCACAF officials were awaiting more information before deciding whether to allow Mexico to call up additional players. Teams were able to bring 23 players to the Gold Cup and dress 18 for each match. Ricardo Osorio already had been sent home with an illness, leaving Mexico with just 17 eligible players for Thursday night’s 5-0 victory over Cuba in Charlotte.

“The committee has asked the Mexican federation to provide more details regarding the doping tests that discovered the banned substance clenbuterol in the urine samples of five players taken during a pre-Gold Cup training camp in Mexico in May,” CONCACAF said in a statement on its website.

El Tri plays Costa Rica on Sunday in Chicago. The defending Gold Cup champions easily won their first two games, routing Cuba and El Salvador by identical 5-0 scores, but the tournament gets tougher from here.

Ochoa, a starter on Mexico’s World Cup team last year, insisted the suspended players did nothing wrong.

“We have nothing to hide,” Ochoa said. “Our conscience is clean because we haven’t done a bad thing.

“It’s sad these things happen,” he added. “These are things that could happen in any restaurant in any location, and it happened to us when we were together in training. It is bad luck. We know this is going to be cleared up, and we’re facing the situation.”

Tour de France champion Alberto Contador also has blamed contaminated beef for his positive test for clenbuterol last July.