Pure chicken, yak meat assured for marathoners

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The coaches of China's national marathon team are personally raising chickens to prevent their athletes from eating meat that may contain additives in local restaurants as they train for the London Summer Olympics in Lijiang in southwestern China's Yunnan Province.

They also buy fish caught in the nearby Jinsha River and procure yak meat from the local highland herdsmen because of increasing reports about lean meat powder - clenbuterol - being illegally added to pork, beef and mutton.

The efforts are directed toward making sure the athletes don't eat food that may contain items banned by the International Olympic Committee as performance-enhancing drugs, such as lean meat powder. The long-distance runners ate only vegetables during the first few days after arriving at their Lijiang training base, the Chongqing Economic Times reported.

"We choose Lijiang because of its comfortable weather. Since we don't have a canteen to provide safe food, we have to cook meals ourselves because it is risky to eat in a street restaurant," a team official said.

It is not the first a Chinese team has taken extraordinary steps to ensure the food is safe. The Tianjin Judo team raised more than 20 pigs in an abandoned training base after Tong Wen, the 78kg category winner in the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games, tested positive for clenbuterol, in 2010. She was later cleared because drug-laced pork chops were shown to be the cause, the West China Metropolis Daily said.

A sports school in Sichuan Province even raised more than 100 pigs and planted 0.33 hectares of vegetables to feed the pigs, the report said.

According to the Xinhua news agency, members of the national gymnastics team are banned from dining in street restaurants to avoid eating drug-laced food as the Summer Olympics approach.

"They are only allowed to have meals in the canteen inside the training base," a team official said.

"We will check their rooms from time to time to ensure they don't make orders from the outside restaurants."

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