Thursday, January 24, 2008

Steroids in Baseball Blamed on Dietary Supplements

  1. Say It Ain’t So, Donald Steroids in Baseball Blamed on Dietary Supplements In the latest twist in the baseball players’ steroid use scandal, congressional hearings following the release of the Mitchell Report have generated a new controversy: MLB players union chief Donald Fehr has apparently tried to shift part of the blame to poor regulation of dietary supplements, suggesting that players may have accidentally ingested banned drugs due to poor manufacturing practices in an industry deregulated by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA). Let me be blunt: What a bunch of bull! First of all, it is ridiculous to try to point the blame at dietary supplements as the cause of professional athletes’ steroid use, implying that the players were doped against their will. I can’t believe for a minute that world-class athletes don’t have their expert trainers carefully scrutinize products before using them, and then only as part of a complete nutritional program. Either the players or their trainers know, or should know, what they’re taking. Does anyone really believe that players are impulsively buying crappy supplements in gas stations? Please! In fact, DSHEA does not allow steroids to be used in dietary supplements. DSHEA actually makes it illegal to sell dietary supplements containing any undisclosed ingredients, making them by definition “adulterated” and subject to strict FDA action. DSHEA also requires that all health claims be submitted to the FDA, and prohibits any new dietary ingredients without first registering safety information with the agency. The Bioterrorism Act also requires domestic and foreign facilities that manufacture, process, pack, or hold food for human or animal consumption in the United States to register with the FDA. Please check the FDA website and see it all for yourself. (3) It is plainly illegal to sell any restricted substances - drugs - without OTC status or a physician's prescription, and all drugs require specific labeling. It is also illegal to sell anabolic steroid precursors like androstene in this country because of another law that was strongly supported by the dietary supplement manufacturers. A New York Daily News article (2) uncritically echoed the unbelievable argument that supplements are now unregulated because of DSHEA and reprinted an outrageous quote by someone who should know better, alleging that “DSHEA was created in order to give the supplement manufacturers a huge shield so they could distribute steroids”, despite the obvious restrictions and regulations that the law imposes. Mr. Fehr’s questionable allegations were featured on AOL, CNN, ESPN, and news feeds that went around the world; sometimes with sympathetic journalists adding similar sentiments and supporting quotes. But we can see the facts for ourselves on the FDA’s own website, proving it ain’t so. (1) Dietary supplement manufacturers also supported FDA’s dramatically increased regulation of supplement manufacturing (cGMPs, or current Good Manufacturing Practices); which was authorized by DSHEA, by the way. The industry even supported mandatory reporting of serious adverse events linked (possibly related) to their products, which is now in effect. It is clear by the record that the dietary supplement industry has consistently supported increased regulation of its own operations and products as a good faith effort to protect its customers, an estimated 2/3 of American adults, even though DSHEA has obviously given the FDA additional regulatory authority over a number of areas. The industry has even lobbied Congress for additional FDA funding to improve the agency’s enforcement of dietary supplement regulations, an incredible effort by an industry to increase government regulation of that same industry. This support should come as no surprise, since the industry is focused on the scientific use of nutrition as a means to offer healthy alternatives for people trying to avoid the use of drugs in the first place. Drugs are dangerous controlled substances, by definition, and nutrients are regulated as a special food category. In this case, Rep. Waxman seemed quite willing to believe the hype, but his history evidences his unwavering belief that the dietary supplement industry is under-regulated, even as more and more layers of regulation are added. Could it be that Mr. Fehr simply, and successfully, gambled that he could distract his inquisitor by providing another target that might be welcomed by such a prominent industry critic? In my opinion, this whole baseball doping controversy really has nothing to do with sloppy supplement manufacturing or poor regulation of the dietary supplement industry, which I consider slanderously false accusations, and everything to do with deliberate illegal drug dealing and steroid use by those who are now desperately trying to find a scapegoat. 1. 2. 3.

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