Natural Foods Merchandiser

Dietary supplements blamed in doping case

by Anna Soref

As the 2008 Summer Olympics dominates the media, it’s no surprise that dietary supplements and doping are hitting the news. The latest case involves Jessica Hardy, a member of the U.S. Olympic swim team who tested positive for the drug Clenbuterol.

Two out of three of Hardy’s samples taken at the Olympic trials in Omaha last month contained low levels of the illicit substance. Clenbuterol is a bronchodilator, often used for treating asthma and other respiratory ailments and increases aerobic capacity. Hardy, who claims she is innocent, blames dietary supplements for the positive results. “I just want to say I’m innocent. I’ve been innocent my entire career,” she told USA Today in a July 26, interview.

Harding’s lawyer has ordered that all of the dietary supplements she consumed be tested for banned ingredients. She has also distanced herself from Advocare, a dietary supplements company that has sponsored her. The Carrollton, Texas-based company makes more than 70 supplements and skin care products.

The chance that dietary supplements would be tainted with a drug like Clenbuterol is slim. “There are two ways that that Clenbuterol can get into a dietary supplement,” said Judy Blatman, senior vice president for the Council for Responsible Nutrition in Washington, D.C. “It could be a company careless about the GMP process, but it’s unlikely in this case because Clenbuterol is an anabolic steroid, which is not made by companies that make supplements.” The other possibility is that a company is intentionally spiking its product. “Companies and athletes have been in on that in the past, though I’m not saying that’s the case here,” Blatman said.

The natural products industry, though, is not incurring the same bad press it was when such cases emerged in the past. “Three or four years ago supplements were getting the blame, but then it was determined that athletes were actually cheating, so now there’s not such a rush to blame the supplements,” Blatman said.

“It’s a two-way street. We have to take responsibility as an industry and athletes need to take responsibility as well. For the sake of the industry [retailers] need to do some qualifying of their own; they need to look for third-party vendors, audit their own vendors,” Blatman advised.

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