Supplements

When I organized the Talent ID Camps for USAC I always included a USDA portion to inform athletes of the dangers of taking supplements or drugs. At National events and at some state events, USDA will be present and they will test.

On Facebook, I found this letter from one of the athletes that attended one of the camps. He was a good kid, respectful of the rules and trained hard. I was shocked to read this and I thought I should share.

For those attending Nationals, do as Roger recommends, record your information. Remember when you read his note he felt he had done his due diligence by checking the ingredients. It is heartbreaking as well as a career breaker to be tested positive.

“Dear Friends,

In September of 2017, I was informed that I tested positive for GW 50156 during the National Track Championships in August. I have never taken GW 50156 intentionally and I had no idea how I tested positive for the substance. I have learned that GW 501516 is a PPAR agonist and is sold online along with SARMs like Ostarine. Like many supplements, it is not a controlled substance by the FDA and is easily accessed. It is generally used by bodybuilders for fat loss but can be used to increase endurance.

Immediately after I received the notice, I called the USOC ombudsman’s office and asked what to do. I told them that I had never intentionally taken any illegal performance-enhancing drugs. They told me that I should request the B sample to be tested as well, which I did and the B sample came back with the same results as the A sample. They also told me that since I tested positive, it is my responsibility to prove that I did not intentionally take the banned substance. If I could, it would be possible to reduce the sanction. Generally, the cause of unintentional ingestion is supplement use. I thought I did my due diligence by checking the ingredients list of my supplements and making sure they were free of any banned substances. Many times, this isn’t enough. The supplement companies usually have their products mixed and packaged at outsourced facilities that sometimes also mix and package supplements that contain banned substances. Sometimes the companies don’t clean out the mixers very well and trace amounts of banned substances can end up inside a supplement with a clean ingredients list. I thought that this was a very small percentage of doping cases, however to my surprise, a huge chunk of doping cases involves tainted supplements. A study done in Australia found that one in five supplements were found to contain banned substances. This isn’t limited to sketchy bodybuilding supplements. It has been reported that in 2003 Amber Neben tested positive for 19-norandrosterone, which she later proved came from a Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes salt tablet.

In order to prove that a supplement was the reason for a positive test, you must prove that you had possession of the supplement with a receipt, and you need to test an unopened product with the same lot number as the one that you ingested. If USADA concludes that the supplement was the cause of the positive test, the sanction is reduced. This became a huge problem for me, as I was racing in Trexlertown Pennsylvania for the 3 months before my test. I had taken a handful of supplements during that time, but I was living in the dorms of a college nearby with some of the racers. The week of Nationals, school was starting and we were leaving the dorms and we were moved to another location for the remainder of the season. I didn’t want to take all the supplements back to California as I had limited space on the flight back to California. So, I threw out most of what I was taking. This meant I had no way of finding the lot numbers of the supplements I had taken. I hired an attorney with a lot of experience to help me navigate the waters. He told me that he was representing someone that had tested positive for DHEA, and he confirmed that it was due to a tainted protein powder supplement. The supplement he had taken was from the same brand as a pre-workout I had taken in Pennsylvania. I tried to track down the supplement but was unable to determine the lot number of the item. I later found out that the product had been batch tested and certified by an independent testing agency that it was free of any banned substances. I reached out to the independent testing agency and asked if they tested this product for GW 501516. They did not. I asked if they would be willing to help me track down the lot number for the batch I had taken. They said they were unable to help and wished me the best of luck.

After months of testing products that I still had and trying to track down products that I didn’t, I have been unsuccessful in finding where the positive test came from. USADA petitioned WADA to shorten it to 3.5 years due to the circumstances. I believe that many of the people at USADA had genuine sympathy for me. There was no reason to shorten my ban if they didn’t. Regardless of how they feel, they cannot shorten my ban further unless I provide proof of unintentional ingestion. I know that it is my responsibility to know what goes into my body, but sometimes that isn’t as straightforward as one might think. I apologize to my fellow competitors. Please know that I didn’t try to gain any illegal advantage. The dose they found in my system was extremely small, close to the limit of detection of 0.01ng/ml. One ng/ml is one billionth of a gram per milliliter. I really don’t think I gained any advantage from the drug but regardless I am sorry. I am sorry to the friends I kept in the dark about this. I really didn’t want to tell anyone anything before I knew all of the details. I encourage any racer who could be tested to keep a log of all the supplements that you take along with the lot numbers. If I did that, I might have been able to race this season.

After a hurricane of emotions these past few months have been, I have generally come to terms with the fact that I won’t be racing my bike for a while. I have learned a lot from all this, and hopefully at the end of the day, I will be a better person because of it. Life isn’t a Disney movie. It’s hard, unfair and sometimes your dreams don’t come true. Not sure what lies ahead for me now, but I will do my best to keep my chin up and stay positive. Big thank you to those who have supported me and have been behind me”.