Former Olympian and current UFC fighter Yoel Romero recently made headlines in the world of combat sports by being on the wrong end of a tainted supplements scandal. In short the United States Anti-Doping Agency independently tested a supplement Romero was using and found it contained a World Anti-Doping Agency banned substance not labelled on the product.
When athletes are accused of doping the ‘tainted supplement‘ defence is frequently raised but rarely proved with the strength of evidence in the Romero case. So how frequently are supplements ‘tainted’ with banned products? A recent study published this week in the Journal of Drug Testing and Analysis finds that this is perhaps a widespread problem.
The study, titled “Pharmaceutical doses of the banned stimulant oxilofrine found in dietary supplements sold in the USA” analyzed 27 brands of supplements searching to see if any of them contained the pharmaceutical stimulant Oxilofrine, a WADA banned substance and a stimulant that should not in supplements as it does not meet the legal definition of a “dietary ingredient” in the US.
The study found that 14 of the 27 analyzed brands contained the WADA banned drug, one which “has never been approved for use in the USA as a prescription drug“.
The supplement industry is largely unregulated. The case of Romero and this study should act as a strong lesson to combat sports athletes to ingest these at their own risk given the ‘strict liability’ world of anti-doping in sports. As the Romero case teaches, even when proven to be faultless the former Olympian still violated his anti-doping terms and was subject to a six month suspension.
The abstract to the recent study can be found here – and reads as follows:
Oxilofrine (4-[1-hydroxy-2-(methylamino)propyl]phenol) is a pharmaceutical stimulant prescribed in dosages of 16 to 40 mg to stimulate the heart and increase blood pressure. It has never been approved for use in the USA as a prescription drug or as a dietary supplement. Several athletes, however, have been banned from sport for testing positive for oxilofrine and have claimed that they inadvertently consumed oxilofrine in sports supplements. Consumption of supplements containing oxilofrine may also pose serious health risks. For example, one brand of supplements containing oxilofrine has been linked to serious adverse events including vomiting, agitation, and cardiac arrest. We designed our study to determine the presence and quantity of oxilofrine in dietary supplements sold in the USA. A validated ultra-high performance liquid chromatography-quadrupole time of flight-mass spectrometry method was developed for the identification and quantification of oxilofrine. The separation was achieved using a reversed phase column, mass spectrometry detection, and a water/acetonitrile gradient as the mobile phase. The presence of oxilofrine was confirmed using a reference standard. We analyzed 27 brands of supplements labelled as containing a synonym of oxilofrine (‘methylsynephrine’) and found that oxilofrine was present in 14 different brands (52%) at dosages ranging from 0.0003 to 75 mg per individual serving. Of the supplements containing oxilofrine, 43% (6/14) contained pharmaceutical or greater dosages of oxilofrine. Following instructions on the label, consumers could ingest as much as 250 mg of oxilofrine per day. The drug oxilofrine was found in pharmacological and greater dosages in supplements labelled as containing methylsynephrine.