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Sports Nutrition

DHEA in Sports Spotlight Again

<p>A fresh doping case involving DHEA reportedly ingested from an energy drink is putting more pressure on the regulation of this dietary supplement.</p>

OJ Mayo, a guard for NBAs Memphis Grizzlies, has tested positive for DHEA and faces disciplinary action. Like many athletes, Mayo blamed his failed test on an off-the-shelf product, in this case an energy drink. However, he did take responsibility for choosing to consume the energy drink and not sufficiently check its contents, so that is plus for these types of cases.

Putting aside the usual long list of actives OTC energy drinks and shots contain (and label), the involvement of DHEA sheds more light on the supplement industrys favorite exceptionthe compound was left off the controlled substance list by the Anabolic Steroid Act, after much pressure from industry and supplement advocates. Supporting DHEAs market availability are arguments DHEA, despite being a removed precursor to testosterone production in the body, is not performance-enhancing and is as likely to produce estrogenic by products as it is to produce any testosterone boost. The supplement is widely available and considered popular among older Americans, as natural body stores decline with aging. On the other hand, bodybuilding and sports forums are abuzz with assertions athletes use DHEA either for a boost to andro levels or as a recovery aid (especially in older athletes).  Science has been mixed, conflicting even, on the notion DHEA affects lean body mass, and there is no long-term research support for a boost to testosterone that could affect performance.

Now, if there is some belief athletes use DHEA as part of a wider hormone/steroid program, then I suppose that would give some fair reasoning behind its being banned in some major sports (cycling and basketball, for example).  Im not trying to start a debate on the sense and reason behind which substances sports organizations ban. I do think more cases like Mayos will put increased pressure on DHEAs open availability on the supplement market. Still, whether it from functional products or a foodsee Tour de France winner Alberto Contadors bad meat defense of a positive test for clenbuterolthere are many limitations to the ability of testing alone to separate the cheats from the innocent, and athletes that stand to lose lucrative careers and previously solid reputations should be extremely careful about what they eat. Yes, it makes their lives a bit more complicated, but I think that comes with the territory and the paycheck.

As for DHEA, its not the first time the world of sports has brought DHEA to light negatively. CRN nicely laid out all the reasons why the supplement should not face escalated regulation and controlled status, but with each new doping case involving DHEA, there is a new influx of cries from the sports world to Congress about putting DHEA on the controlled substances list.

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