Interview with Oliver Catlin
An Interview with Oliver Catlin – BSCG President
Interviewer: You and your father, legendary sports anti-doping scientist Dr. Don Catlin, founded BSCG in 2004 to help protect athletes who consume dietary supplements from testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, and in the process helped to found an industry. What necessitated your thinking that athletes deserved a level of protection?
Oliver: As the director of the UCLA Olympic Lab, my father attended hearings with athletes who had tested positive for banned substances. While many were guilty of trying to skirt the rules, others seemed genuinely caught off guard by their positive test results, and it was determined that the banned substance they had tested positive for was, in fact, hidden in the dietary supplement they were consuming. We helped a number of athletes with supplement testing to determine if a supplement was responsible, but this was after the fact. We felt something had to be done proactively to correct this unfortunate situation. It’s only right for athletes—and it’s also the best thing for sport. In the end, ensuring that dietary supplements are free of banned substances not only helps protect athletes but it helps ensure drug testing is effective and sports stay clean.
I: Oliver, as the President of BSCG, what are your goals for the company?
O: BSCG’s leadership has been at the forefront of sports drug testing and toxicology for more than three decades. We have worked hard to ensure our program meets or exceeds the standards in the industry and provides the maximum protection to athletes and consumers against the risk of supplement contamination. As we move forward, we look to continue as a leader in our field by expanding the protection we offer to a broader population of supplement users with a broaden testing menu focused not only on drugs in sport but also prescription and over-the-counter medications.
I: In 2013, you developed and trademarked BSCG’s Certified Drug Free® brand. Can you tell us about this?
O: Our new trademark “Certified Drug Free®” is important to represent what it is we do and distinguish our services from other quality marks in the industry. As one of the only programs to certify products as drug free we wanted to represent that in our branding. Some competitors have opted to include “Sport” in their branding, we specifically made our brand more general as our services appeal to a larger portion of the supplement users with our expanded testing menus. We feel such wording will help athletes and consumers navigate supplement products and help them to make wise decisions about which products to purchase and consume.
I: Tell us about BSCG’s expanded testing menu for substances banned in sport?
O: BSCG is constantly adding compounds to our testing menu as we seek the broadest coverage possible. We now offer coverage for more than 207 drugs banned in sport, the broadest coverage available in our industry today. As we build our menu, we have targeted the compounds that were responsible for positive drug tests in the WADA system over the last decade. The theory being, if supplements were leading to positive drug tests, that was represented in the positive drug test statistics. Today our menu includes compounds that collectively were responsible for more than 96% of positive drug tests in the WADA system over the last decade.
As drugs or clandestine designer drugs evolve, so too must our testing menu. We strive to keep up with the most recent drug concerns, based on the most recent discoveries and information, and make our tests and testing menu ever better and more effective. That’s our pledge to athletes and consumers—and it’s a commitment we take seriously.
I: BSCG added testing for more than 185 drugs not banned in sport. Why is that important?
O: To date, supplement certification programs have focused on substances banned in sport and the protection of athletes. When one looks at what the FDA finds in adulterated supplements, however, there is a realization that only about half of the drugs they find are banned in sport. We recognized there were serious supplement contamination concerns that were not being addressed by only focusing on banned substances in sport. So, we went to work to evaluate the situation and build a testing menu focused on consumer protection and the prescription and over-the-counter medications that have been shown to contaminate consumer products or are at risk of doing so. We are very excited to now offer protection well beyond the sports nutrition marketplace.
I: You offer additional testing for compounds of significance to equines and canines. What needs are you addressing with this additional testing?
O: Dietary supplements are on the rise in the animal world, with equines and canines as the primary targets. These animals also race or compete and are subject to drug testing as a result. In the consumer environment, several prominent feed contamination issues have occurred over the past year prompting us to focus on the issue. Compounded supplements and medications are also common in the veterinary realm and these products can cause serious issues if quality is not verified. One tragic example from a few years ago came when an international polo team contracted with a compounding pharmacy to make a dietary supplement for the team. The pharmacy messed up in the formulation and included 1,000 times the amount of selenium directed. This mistake resulted in more than half of the polo ponies who used the product to drop dead on the field. We think our animal athletes and companions deserve the same protection we do.
I: In what ways does BSCG differ from its competitors?
O: BSCG comes from a long history of anti-doping in human sport. As a result we have been dealing with supplements and their relation to drugs in sport for years. This gives us the necessary experience to evaluate the complex issues we are faced with in the supplement arena. Anti-doping professionals review each formula to ensure it is acceptable for certification. We offer certification of products, raw materials and manufacturing facilities as our competitors do but our testing menu expands the relevant audience significantly.
I: BSCG has always required GMP Good Manufacturing Practices compliance but you have now added an audit and annual testing for label claims and contaminants. Why have you done this?
O: We began our program more than a decade ago when supplement certification for banned substances did not exist. Our primary focus was on ensuring products did not contain drugs in sport, as that was the recognized need we were closest to. In reviewing GMP and other quality control guidelines, we realized there was little meat behind such guidelines, leaving a need for third-parties to verify the quality and integrity of products as well as ensuring they were drug free. Sporting regulators, nutritionists, trainers, doctors and supplement companies have also recognized this need. With these elements in its program BSCG offers a complete supplement quality solution.
I: How can folks verify that the product they have in their hands is certified by BSCG and is not being misrepresented by an irresponsible manufacturer?
O: Unfortunately, such misrepresentation can be a problem. A BSCG certification can be invaluable in marketing a supplement product by lending it credibility, so some unscrupulous companies erroneously use it. Others that have certified one batch several years ago may still imply that they are certified by BSCG. To combat this problem, we have a database on our website with up-to-date information on what companies, products, ingredients and batches have been certified by BSCG. If a company or product/ingredient lot is not on the list, it is not certified. We recommend that athletes and consumers check this database before buying and consuming a supplement product.
I: Do you currently play any sports or are you a fan of any? Which are your favorites?
O: I am an avid Olympic fan, having been lucky enough to attend 11 in my life. I grew up around the Olympic movement and loved every minute of it. Watching athletes compete in sports for the pure passion of their game is amazing. As for myself I am an avid snowboarder and skier and do a lot of biking and hiking. Tennis was my game in high school; golf and fly fishing are my never-ending pursuits of perfection.
I: Where do you see the dietary supplement industry and BSCG in the next five years?
O: Natural products have been exploding as of late and probably will continue to do so. There are a lot of new supplements aimed at brain health and other specifics of health – functional nutrition if you will. In the sport nutrition sector we continue to battle with the availability of old and also new designer drugs. Muscle-building products continue to present new risks with SARMs and other hormone modulating drugs being sold over the counter prior to FDA approval. Prohormones and designer steroids continue to proliferate. The pre-workout energy sector is churning out new, and sometimes dangerous, product options with ingredients that would be banned in sport or be considered new drugs. Recent issues have found amphetamine analogs and other similar compounds to be present.
The above interview was conducted internally and took place during October 2014 in Los Angeles.
To interview Oliver Catlin, press may contact Joseph Taylor, BSCG public relations consultant, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 800-920-6605.