Does MLB Drug Policy Affect Supplements? 29528

February 28, 2005

4 Min Read
Does MLB Drug Policy Affect Supplements?

Does MLB Drug Policy Affect Supplements?

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.From itswinter meeting here on Jan. 13, Major League Baseball (MLB) Commissioner BudSelig announced a tougher new drug policy, including more frequent and nowrandom testing as well as an expanded list of banned substances. Among thebanned are human growth hormones and supplements proven to be steroidprecursors.

The new policy represents an agreement between the league andthe players union, and comes on the heels of a tough public relations yearinvolving marquee players and steroid use. Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) andJoseph Biden (D-Del.), and President Bush all provided a federal push for thenew policy and reacted with reserved praise to MLBs new step in drug policy.The senators were looking for even tougher standards, including provisionsagainst amphetamines (called greenies) and similar substances, which arereportedly rampant in MLB.

Androstenedione (andro) and its numerous related forms havealready been banned by both the federal government and MLB. A federalanti-steroid law went into effect on Jan. 20, making it illegal to sell, buy oruse prohormones and steroid precursors without a prescription.

Andro blew open the steroid precursor scandal in baseballafter St. Louis slugger Mark McGwire admitted to using andro during hishome run record-breaking season. It was no secret that many players used androand similar supplements, but in the years that followed, more public attentionwas paid to big name players and the products they use to get a performanceadvantage. As imagined, dietary supplements were often in the spotlight.

Barry Bonds tried to excuse himself from a steroid scandalduring the 2004 season by telling a federal grand jury he thought he tookflaxseed oil and an arthritis balm, instead of cream and liquid steroidtetrahydrogestrinone (THG), which is now banned under the new drug policy.Olympic sprinter Tim Montgomery testified that Victor Conte, founder of SanFrancisco-based BALCO Industries, provided athletes with the liquid steroid,dubbed the clear, in flaxseed oil bottles.Yankees slugger Jason Giambialso relied on the excuse of just taking vitamins and legal supplements whenasked about his connection in the Balco steroid scandal. For his part, Conteallegedly struck various deals with Olympic sprinters and baseball players,sometimes involving endorsement deals for Balcos flagship ZMA products.

Resounding public and media opinion has centered on how starathletes must be meticulous about what they put in their bodies and would, thus,know when a supplement could result in positive drug results. Amanda Carlson,M.S., R.D., nutritionist with Tempe, Ariz.- based Athletes Performance, saidher training center, which is known for off-season conditioning of majorprofessional athletes, promotes performance enhancement through ethical means.We give the athletes the advice When in doubt, dont take it, shesaid.We are very selective in the products that we recommend, and mostathletes will bring me any new supplement they are thinking of trying.

Earlier last season, MLB took aim at ephedra after BaltimoreOrioles pitcher Steve Bechlers sudden death was linked to ephedra-relatedsupplements. The stimulant herb and its derivatives were banned by MLB andoutlawed by the federal government following deaths reportedly linked to theherbal supplement. Of course, the issue with the ephedra ban has been that itand other responsibly manufactured and marketed health supplements are safe whentaken as instructed. However, one popular method of supplementation, especially formajor athletes, is to take more than directed.

One legal supplement from which players should not expect toget extra benefit via extra doses is creatine. The effect observed fromcreatine can be anywhere from an 8 percent to 15 percent increase in performanceand nothing more, said Conrad Earnest, Ph.D., director of the exercisephysiology lab at Dallas-based Cooper Institute. It is not one of thoseproducts where the more take, you continue to see benefits. Creatine, popularwith baseball sluggers, is not banned by the government and is not on theexpanded MLB banned substances list, because it is not a steroid, which was thefocus of the new MLB policy. Creatine is a simple amino complex, not a hormone,prehormone, prohormone, wanna-be hormone or whatever people call suchproducts to skirt around the edge of what they really are, Conrad said. It has never been demonstrated to haveperformance-enhancing effects, said Rob Manfred Jr., executive vice presidentof Labor relations and human resource for MLB. It is not regulated by thefederal government as a steroid or pro hormone; and therefore, is not covered byour agreement. It is a nutritional supplement more akin to a food.

The key measure in the MLBs new zero tolerance policycenters on unannounced, random drug testing of all players and stiffer penaltiesfor test failures; the expanded list of banned substance is an ongoing project.As for any future substances or supplements that hit the market, Manfredreported under the new agreement new substances could be banned if they fallunder federal regulation of steroids or if MLBs health advisory panel decidesto place it on the banned list.

How does all this affect supplement manufacturers? The desireby athletes to gain a performance edge will likely keep supplements at theforefront of professional sports nutrition regimens, but scrutiny ofsupplement products is likely to intensify, which will challenge manufacturersto gain the trust of players and trainers. Carlson suggested sports supplementmanufacturers use third party testing such as NSF International, which resultsin a known safety symbol placed on the product bottle.

Subscribe and receive the latest insights on the health and nutrition industry.
Join 37,000+ members. Yes, it's completely free.

You May Also Like