The National Football League suspended San Diego Chargers player Shawne Merriman after he tested positive for the banned substance nandrolone, an anabolic steroid. Merriman, the 2005 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, said he had been taking supplements that were previously tested and cleared for use.
In a press briefing, Merriman's lawyer, David Cornwell, said, "He has been playing, unwittingly, Russian roulette with his career. He's been taking the same supplements and has been subjected to testing and hasn't yielded a positive test. He thought that the supplements that he was taking were safe."
Nandrolone occurs naturally in small quantities in the human body. Some researchers speculate that elevated nandrolone levels can be caused by a combination of taking dietary supplements that don't contain nandrolone, engaging in heavy exercise and eating a high-protein diet.
"Supplements are not regulated and it is a dirty fact of this industry that many of them are tainted with prohibited substances and men like Shawne get hooked up and get penalized for taking something that they didn't know was present in the supplement," Cornwell said.
In a related story, the United Natural Products Alliance, formerly Utah Natural Products Alliance, released a statement condemning the energy drink Cocaine and calling for stricter policing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration: "The United Natural Products Alliance believes that such names and claims are inappropriate and that the federal government has the authority to protect consumers from them. UNPA supports strong enforcement by the FDA of its 2000 guidance, which specifically addresses this topic."
FDA's March 2000 "Guidance for Industry: Street Drug Alternatives," states, "FDA is also aware that some of these street drug alternatives are being marketed as dietary supplements. FDA does not consider street drug alternatives to be dietary supplements." These street-drug alternatives are classed as illegal under sections 505 and 502 of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVII/number 12/p. 12