BEIJING - The coach of China's women's volleyball team has blamed a loss to the United States on his players not being able to eat pork because of fears it was laced with a toxic chemical, state media said Monday.
The Chinese were beaten in three straight sets in Sunday's World Grand Prix match in the eastern city of Ningbo on Sunday. The Americans had to beat China to win the round-round robin tournament, which involved 16 teams.
Chinese coach Yu Juemin said the team lost because the players were weak from not eating pork - the staple meat for most Chinese, for three weeks as they played in various cities around China, the Beijing News said.
"We dared not eat pork when we went out to play matches because we were afraid of clenbuterol," Yu said, according to the report.
"We took pork only after we returned to Beilun."
Yu was referring to the team's training base in Ningbo, where pork and other food is tested to ensure no contaminants.
Clenbuterol is officially banned in China because, if eaten by humans, it can lead to dizziness, heart palpitations and, in worst cases, cancer.
However reports of clenbuterol being found in pork occur frequently in China, because the chemical can produce leaner meat.
More than 100 people, including dozens of government employees, were jailed in one province alone last year after clenbuterol was found in slaughterhouses across many farming regions.
Toxic pork is just one of many food safety scandals that have made Chinese extremely nervous about what they eat and drink.
In 2008, milk was at the centre of one of China's biggest food safety scandals when the industrial chemical melamine was found to have been illegally added to dairy products to give the appearance of higher protein content.
At least six babies died and another 300,000 became ill after drinking milk tainted with melamine.