The Chinese Women's Olympic Volleyball Team Stopped Eating Meat… and Stopped Playing WellS

The Chinese women's Olympic volleyball team allegedly didn't do so well in the recent FIVB World Grand Prix finals because they hadn't eaten meat for weeks. No, the women aren't PETA advocates; they're abstaining from meat because they're afraid to get any clenbuterol in their system.

Chinese farmers often use clenbuterol in animal feed to get leaner meat at a faster pace; 50 percent of meat consumed in Beijing is said to contain the additive. Health issues aside, things have gotten tricky with the Olympics coming up because the International Olympic Committee and the World Anti-Doping Agency consider the chemical a performance-enhancing drug. The team enjoys specially sourced meat at their training base, but they have to be careful when they're on the road. Experts say athletes need to eat more animal protein than ordinary people to keep their stamina up (before all of the non-meat-eaters out there freak out; yes, of course there are some top vegetarian athletes, but the Chinese volleyball team members are not among them) which is likely why the team, used to eating meat on the regular, started lagging in the latter half of their games.

"[The players] have showed significant decline in their strength and fitness," Yu Juemin, their coach, told Beijing News after China lost to the United States in three sets last Sunday. "We dared not eat pork when we come out of our training camp for the tournament because we are afraid of clenbuterol." He added that the team would have "ample supplies" of meat in the next twenty days before the Olympics.

But, since this isn't the Hunger Games, everyone should have access to chemical-free meat, not just VIPs like Olympic-bound athletes. (Chinese astronauts and high-ranking officials get the good meat, too.) "The fact that only top athletes have access to healthy meat products reflects how grave our food safety problem has become," one Beijing resident said. Maybe the meat-related losses will help draw attention to the larger cause.

Warning Against Eating Meat Has Chinese Olympians Off Their Game [Eliza Barclay]

(Image via FIVB)