Sports Nutrition

Will Manny Shine Even Bigger Spotlight on DHEA?

I don't have to tell those who deal in DHEA about the pressure and attention being paid to the supplement ingredient by those who area against DSHEA. However, the greater threat seems to be those who believe it should fall under the Anabolic Steroid Control Act as a controlled substance, such as andro was recently deemed. This includes members of the pro and world-class sporting world.

While we've seen hints of DHEA blaming in pro cycling, it was only a matter of time before a high-profile, major U.S. sports doping case shined its unforgiving light on DHEA. Enter Manny Ramirez, star slugger for LA Dodgers, who recently failed a Major League Baseball (MLB) drug test. At first, there wasn't much word from Manny's camp, but the San Diego Tribune has reported his defense was originally going to pin the failed test on DHEA. DHEA is banned by most pro sporting bodies, as well as the Olympics, but not MLB. How convenient for Manny. However, before MLB could hear this argument, evidence emerged that Manny received a prescription for a banned woman’s fertility drug. The slugger did not contest this evidence and accepted a 50-game suspension. Nonetheless, DHEA is now a known "loophole" that critics speculate MLB players may utilize, although MLB officials call this "loophole" more hypothetical than practical.

In an article by Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan, Christiane Ayotte of the INRS-Institut in Montreal, which handles MLB drug testing, said her lab can tell the difference between elevated testosterone from DHEA and from banned substances.

He goes on to talk about Sen. Orrin Hatch's (R-Utah) fight against DHEA being included in the Steroid Control Act, accusing Hatch of favoring his son who worked for a DHEA manufacturer. Passan also mentions Sen. Chuck Grassley's (R-Iowa) failed 2007 attempt to curtail DHEA sales, noting Grassley introduced a bill in Congress March 2009 to make illegal the sale of DHEA to anyone under the age of 18 without a prescription. Not sure how that would stop MLB players from using DHEA, but I suppose Passan is using Grassley's effort to show how dangerous DHEA is—the Senator calls DHEA a drug and said it causes liver damage and, possibly, cancer. Passan concedes, "Though some experts believe such side effects are possible, no long-term studies have been done on DHEA to verify that."

In case any pro athlete hasn't already drilled this into their brains: It is the player's responsibility to know that what they put in their bodies does not result in a failed drug test.

Read here for more detailed information on why DHEA is not a performance-enhancing supplement, but is a NON-anabolic steroid that helps older people with hormone problems associated with aging. I'm not saying baseball shouldn't ban it, but MLB officials said their efforts to do so were thwarted by the players' union, which said players should have access to the same products as does the general public. But, DHEA shouldn't be used a loophole by players, and based on the MLB's lab head, it can't be. There is no reason why this should render DHEA a controlled substance. Using Manny and MLB for this argument is weak.




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