The article describes an e-mail from the Australian Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) warning athletes against taking dietary supplements containing methylhexaneamine…
“Athletes need to be aware that, under the policy of strict liability, they are responsible for any substance found in their body,” the ASADA e-mail reads.
“Athletes using supplements do so at their own risk. This substance is classed as an S6 stimulant on the Prohibited list and is prohibited in-competition. ASADA is advising all Australian athletes subject to in-competition doping control to carefully consider their use of supplements and products containing methylhexaneamine.”
The article then goes on to quote track star Tamsyn Lewis’ response to the warning: “There is simply not enough information and for younger athletes coming up through junior ranks, including the football codes, they’re driving blind,” Lewis said. “They haven’t been educated or informed about this banned substance and the specific supplements to avoid.”
So, where do you find information on methylhexaneamine if you’re an athlete and want to avoid positive tests related to the compound? Given all the attention on the compound recently we thought we would explore ASADA’s website to see what kind of information they have. We found four listings after putting ‘methylhexaneamine’ into the search box on the site, all in the last month. We also went to the USADA and WADA websites to see if information was available through their search boxes; surprisingly neither site returned any matching items.
What seems to be missing is a listing of the various supplement products and label names, which hides the reality that methylhexaneamine is present. Many products, for example, contain geranium oil extract, a seemingly benign ingredient. In reality, geranium oil extract is a common label name for methylhexanamine in supplement products. Mistaken use of methylhexanamine can easily result.
We have responded ourselves to the methylhexaneamine issue by creating ADR’s Searchable Database of Banned Stimulants. The database includes banned stimulants, their synonyms, label names, and also brand names that contain this and other banned stimulants. With the hope of providing a simple tool for athletes and other drug-tested professionals to help avoid similar issues in the future, we are working on raising financial support to further develop the database and expand it to other categories of drugs. Please contact us at 310-482-6925 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to help.
Comment on title: Perhaps you have noticed that we have spelled methylhexanamine in the title without the extra ‘e.’ This is because the compound is more commonly listed on internet sites without the ‘e’ even though the scientific name includes it, as a PubChem search demonstrates. The Wikipedia page is found by searching without the ‘e,’ yet the first line of the article includes the ‘e.’ This example further demonstrates the confusion that swirls around this compound….
Deer antler has gained popularity as a dietary supplement over the last few years. Some manufacturers, like LuRong Living Essential, grind the actual antler into powder form and encapsulate it in ingestible capsules. (For the record, our company Banned Substances Control Group has certified LuRong Living Essential to be free of methyltestosterone [see below] and other contaminants.)
Whether the spray forms are legal under U.S. law is unclear. If deer antler is chemically altered to standardize the amount of IGF-1 present or to make it absorbable, then the spray form of deer antler is likely illegal under DSHEA. However, we will let the FDA sort that out; we are here to examine issues related to drugs in sport.
As the article notes, we tested the spray at our nonprofit/NGO Anti-Doping Research for The Post Game in 2011 and did not find methyltestosterone. This highlights an important point: that one batch of a product can be contaminated and another batch clean, something that athletes need to consider.
All this attention prompted MLB and NFL to issue warnings to players regarding the use of deer antler. Interestingly, the MLB warning did not focus on the IGF-1 issue but rather on the issue of methyltestosterone contamination. The NFL warning meanwhile concentrated more on the IGF-1 issue and questioned the appropriateness of its players or coaches representing such a product.
Confusion has swirled ever since culminating in Super Bowl fashion with allegations that Ray Lewis used the very same SWATS spray in his triceps recovery. ESPN ticker reports are now alleging that the Alabama football team may have used the spray as well.
Whether deer antler is banned in sport and whether its use would be considered a doping violation comes down to whether it is ingested or absorbed and whether it has been certified to be free of potential contaminants like methyltestosterone.
Would using deer antler be considered use of a banned substance in sport?
In our opinion, the answer comes down to the form used. Scientific publications agree that when IGF-1 is ingested in the form of colostrum it is not absorbed by the body and would ‘not elicit positive results on drug tests.’ Assuming the same is true of the IGF-1 in deer antler or other food products, ingesting the IGF-1 is unlikely to be construed as a violation of drug testing regulations since no banned substance is absorbed by the body. Therefore, ingestible deer antler products should be acceptable for athletes to use under current rules. Conversely, using a spray form of deer antler concentrated to contain certain amounts of IGF-1 that is delivered through liposomal absorption would likely constitute a doping violation, because if the product works as claimed the banned substance IGF-1 would be absorbed by the body.
Is IGF-1 detectable in the current sport drug testing system?
As the abstract of a recent publication states: “Currently, there is no test for the detection of IGF-1 introduced worldwide”. This is not to say that the anti-doping community can not detect it as there are numerous publications that demonstrate the ability to do so. IGF-1 is used as an important marker in the Sonksen test for human growth hormone that has been slowly gaining traction in the WADA community. That said, we are not aware of a complete detection method for IGF-1 in use in sport drug testing today that can unequivocally determine if exogenous, or foreign, IGF-1 has entered the body. So, if the deer antler sprays work as intended and IGF-1 is actually absorbed by the body, that may be a violation of drug testing policies but we do not believe it would result in a positive drug test in the current system. Unfortunately, IGF-1 in general remains a major challenge for anti-doping authorities and is a huge potential loophole in the current doping control system.
Is there a way for athletes to protect themselves against the potential for methyltestosterone or other contamination to occur in deer antler products?
As with all dietary supplements, we would recommend that athletes only use batches or lots of products that have been certified by a reputable independent testing body to be free of banned substances. We operate a program called BSCG Certified Drug Free® that offers testing services to manufacturers, teams and athletes to ensure that products are safe and free of banned and dangerous substances.
It is our view that if you are an athlete using a spray form of deer antler be aware that you are likely in violation of drug-testing rules even though the IGF-1 at issue may not be detectable currently. If you want to use deer antler without violating drug-testing policies, you should be careful to use only an ingestible product that has been tested for potential contaminants like methyltestosterone.
This is a perfect example of the extremely complex issues we all face when considering the connections between dietary supplements and banned substances in sport. We feel it is the responsibility of the leagues, the players associations, the anti-doping authorities, the FDA, supplement industry representatives, and scientific organizations like ours to come together to address the broader issues in some fashion. As deer antler does not wander the forests alone, we owe it to the athletes to provide a concrete yes or no as to whether something is prohibited, as their careers and reputations are at stake. We have the ability and the knowledge; we just need to make the effort.