Updated on Feb. 11, 2019.
Enhanced Athlete can now add a criminal conviction to its legal and regulatory woes, as a U.K. court found the company’s European division guilty of placing an unsafe food product on the market. A Crown Court jury found the company marketed and sold DNP (2,4-Dinitrophenol), a fat-burning chemical unsafe for human consumption. The company on Feb. 7 was handed various fines, and its former director was sentenced to a suspended prison sentence, community service and corporate restriction.
According to the clerk at Carlisle Crown Court, Cumbria, where the trial was held, the company was fined 100,000 pounds (~US$130,000) in addition to court and victim costs, and the company’s former U.K. director, Shaun Corrigan, was sentenced to nine months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to 180 hours of community service. Corrigan was also barred from serving as a corporate director for two years.
During the trial, prosecutors stated while DNP can burn fat, the chemical is “toxic to humans, causing serious harmful side effects and, in fact, fatalities.”
The jury heard about online exchanges between Corrigan and athletes, discussing dosing and other aspects of taking DNP. Some of these exchanges included warnings to Corrigan and the company.
One online commenter told Corrigan, "The DNP one is the one they will jump all over you on; last thing you want, bro, is some kid burning himself inside out," according to ITV, which reported live updates from the court.
Physical evidence was also a factor in the trial. In September 2017, the U.K. Food Standards Agency (FSA) National Food Crime Unit, in conjunction with the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency and the Allerdale Borough Council, raided Enhanced Athlete’s European facilities in an industrial area of Wigton, England, confiscating several kilos of DNP powder, in addition to tablets and related manufacturing machinery.
The Allerdale Council prosecuted the case against Enhanced Athlete Europe and Corrigan in a trial that concluded Feb. 6 in Carlisle Crown Court.
“This has been a really meticulous investigation by council officers and I’m really pleased that it has resulted in a guilty plea by Mr. Corrigan, and a successful prosecution of Enhanced Athlete Europe Ltd.,” said Carni McCarron-Holmes, an executive member of the Allerdale Council with responsibility for Housing, Health and Wellbeing, in a statement.
“We were pleased to work with Allerdale Council and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency to secure this successful prosecution,” said Darren Davies, head of FSA’s National Food Crime Unit. “DNP is a toxic chemical and the danger posed by this substance, with a very real risk of death, needs to be highlighted. It is completely irresponsible and unforgiveable to be selling this item for human consumption.”
Enhanced Athlete Europe had no representation at the three-day trial or during an earlier hearing, wherein the court entered a not guilty plea on behalf of the company.
Companies House, a U.K. government website housing corporate filing history, showed Corrigan was listed as a director for the European division on Nov. 3, 2016, and he resigned on Aug. 28, 2018. The trial coverage neither referenced Enhanced Athlete CEO Scott Cavell, who is currently behind bars in California, nor Anthony Charles Hughes (aka Dr. Tony Huge), whose role in the company has been debated in civil litigation.
According to Companies House, Cavell and Hughes were listed as Enhanced Athlete Europe directors until Nov. 27, 2016. The nature of the company’s business is listed as “Retail sale of sports goods, fishing gear, camping goods, boats and bicycles.”
The registry listed Hughes and Cavell’s U.K. addresses as in Gateshead, with corresponding addresses in California, and Corrigan’s address is listed as in Wigton, England. Hughes and Cavell were listed as previously having significant control over the company. All three men are currently listed as resigned.
No dose of this drug is safe for human consumption
FSA has advised the public: “The chemical 2,4-dinitrophenol (DNP) is a highly toxic industrial chemical mainly used as a pesticide. It is illegal to sell DNP for human consumption. Under current legislation those wishing to buy, sell or keep DNP may need to apply for a license.”
U.K. health officials have received reports of injury and death and have warned the public against any DNP ingestion.
“It is important that people understand that any dose of this drug poses a potential risk to the user,” said Clinical Pharmacology Professor Simon Thomas, director of the U.K. National Poison Information Service (NPIS), in a blog posted on the Public Health England (PHE) website in 2013. “With four deaths in less than two years, it is clear just how toxic this drug is. We have seen an increasing number of enquiries, involving people with severe toxicity, and we strongly advise people not to take DNP as a weight loss or ‘fat burning’ aid.”
A conviction of a Hampshire, England, man in U.K. court in summer 2018 was for not only selling unsafe food (DNP), but also manslaughter by gross negligence for the death of a 21-year-old university student, who bought DNP for use as a slimming aid.
DNP is also illegal for sale for human consumption in the United States. It is approved only for use as a primary ingredient in herbicides, pesticides, sulfur dyes, wood preservatives and fertilizers.
INSIDER previously reported on a U.S. competitor lawsuit alleging Enhanced Athlete sold DNP through a website billed as The Fertilizer Warehouse.
Enhanced Athlete faces similar scrutiny in United States
Only months after the U.K. raid on Enhanced Athlete’s U.K. facilities, U.S. federal authorities raided the company’s facilities in the Sacramento, California area. In statements issued after the raid, Cavell reported the feds confiscated “virtually no DNP” but did capture the company’s selective androgen receptor modulator (SARM) product Ostamuscle and many research chemicals.
SARMs are an investigational new drug (IND) and cannot be sold as a supplement, although they have been sold online to bodybuilders as a non-steroidal muscle-building alternative, often under the guise of research chemicals.
Companies like Enhanced Athlete have come under scrutiny for marketing SARMs and other potentially unsafe substances to bodybuilders because their representatives have engaged in online communications about the substances' dosing, benefits and availability with bodybuilders and other consumers interested in body composition benefits.
A few months before the U.S. raid, Enhanced Athlete was sued by Nutrition Distribution for falsely advertising SARMs. The case is ongoing. Filings in that case indicated Cavell and Enhanced Athlete were under federal investigation for selling illegal substances, namely SARMs. In a deposition, Cavell’s attorney Ronald Peters said a federal prosecutor told him of the investigation.
At the time, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California would only confirm for INSIDER “an investigation into [Cavell’s] manufacturing and distributing unapproved substances for human consumption based on a [Dec. 6, 2017] search of his business and residence.” The office said it could not confirm or deny any broader federal investigation into Enhanced Athlete.
Cavell has been in Sacramento jail since February 2017, after being arrested for violations of his supervised probation, which he was under from his previous participation in a mortgage fraud scheme. In that case, Cavell and a partner separately fled the United States to avoid prosecution. Cavell went to Ireland, where he lived under a false identity, but was eventually jailed for drug charges and was extradited to the United States.
He is currently awaiting a hearing on the alleged probation violations, including unreported major purchases and traveling outside the jurisdiction without permission.
While Cavell was openly Enhanced Athlete’s CEO, Hughes maintained he was merely an unpaid endorser or ambassador, not the founder and leader many people in the sports nutrition industry said he was. INSIDER previously reported on Hughes’ potentially deep ties to Enhanced Athlete, including an old podcast in which he was billed as the founder and he talked about founding the company and formulating its products.
At press time, attorneys for Cavell and Enhanced Athlete had not returned requests for comment.