Coming on the heels of the recent suspension of Crossfit Games athlete and previous 16th fittest man in the world Richard Bohlken might be asking himself how he found himself in this position?
The answer is simple education! Mr Bohlken is coming from an educated background of being a previous professional athlete playing baseball for most of his athletic career and being intimately familiar with a stringent drug testing policy of a professional sporting environment such as the crossfit games.
Even with that type of education and understanding Richard tested positive for "Ostarine" which is a selective androgen receptor modulator (SARM) from GTX, Inc for treatment of conditions such as muscle wasting and osteoporosis. All SARM's are banned by the World Anti Doping Agency for there ability to produce effects similar to anabolic steroids. So since Richard was educated in the policy how did he test positive for Ostarine? The answer is because the education on the policy is only 1/2 the education you need. You also need to be educated on the supplement industry and in Richard's own words he said he was,
"A victim of cross contamination. The supplement manufacturer that produces Fitnessentials Pre and Post products also mixed and distributed Ostarine for a separate entity. This substance was in the factory and mixed prior to the Pre and Post workout I was distributed. The result of this was my supplement being contaminated and testing positive for a banned substance."
So how does this impact you? Chances are you are not a professional athlete of any kind and if you are then listen up but if you are not listen up as well because while you might not be a professional athlete chances are you are taking some sort of supplements to help you in the box to either perform or recover better and the question is do you know EXACTLY whats in it? I am willing to bet Richard Bohlken read the ingredients of his pre and post workout supplement and didn't see Ostarine listed! Also you may or may not have heard this but the supplement industry as a whole is highly unregulated and there are very few imposed safe guards from outside entities regulating what goes into supplements and the process in which there manufactured. Don't believe me? Recently the New York State attorney generals office accused 4 major retailers of,
"Selling fraudulent and potentially dangerous herbal supplements and demanded that they remove the products from their shelves... The authorities said they had conducted tests on top-selling store brands of herbal supplements at four national retailers — GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart — and found that four out of five of the products did not contain any of the herbs on their labels. The tests showed that pills labeled medicinal herbs often contained little more than cheap fillers like powdered rice, asparagus and houseplants, and in some cases substances that could be dangerous to those with allergies..."
Do I have your attention? Now how can you protect yourself? Well just like Richard a little education and caution used when selecting your supplements will allow you to navigate the unpredictable waters of the world of supplements.
Here are my 5 recommendations to selecting what are most likely clean and well manufactured supplements.
- Look for third party certificates from a few key specific agencies. The best of all being NSF for Sport certificate which is recognized by the National Football League and Major League Baseball as supplements that there athletes can use in accordance with there drug policy. A few other agencies are Banned Substances Control Group (BSCG), HFL Sports Science, ConsumerLab and the National Products Association.
- Look for a few key artificial sweeteners like sucralose, AceK, High fructose corn syrup and fructose (and any other tricky name used for fructose) if it has these then stay away! Be clear I am not condemning these and I'm not going to get into the sweeter debate here. I will save that for a future blog but the reason I say this is that these are very inexpensive raw materials and there are usually better options available but are a little more expensive.Options like organic Stevia, fructose free organic dried cane syrup and organic monk fruit. If the company paid the money for the better sweeter option chances are they spent money also in its manufacturing.
- Look for a few key vitamins/nutrients substitutions. There are a 2 basic types of vitamins/nutrients " activated or body ready" and not activated or body ready. A good example of this is vitamin B12. Its 2 main versions Cyanocobalamin and Methylcabolomin the Cayano version is a VERY cheap raw material and is poorly absorbed. This is essentially cutting corners in nutrient raw material procurement so look for supplements that use Methylcabolomin as well as these other activated forms of nutrients and minerals: Riboflavin as riboflavin 5 phosphate, B6 as pyridoxal 5 phosphate, Folate as 5-methyltetrahydrofolic acid and Albion chelated minerals
- Look for Non GMO ingredients or a non GMO disclosure/statement as well as a does not contain statement on the label. It should read something similar to this: Does Not Contain: Wheat, gluten, yeast, soy protein, animal or dairy products, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, egg, ingredients derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, or artificial preservatives. If your supplement either doesn't have this or leaves one of these out chances are whatever is left off is in there.
- This last one is simple but often overlooked. A product should have either a manufacture date and/or a expiration date as well as a lot number. Here is the important part it should be stamped in ink somewhere on the bottle NOT the label. It should not be moveable or changeable! You would be shocked on how many companies print these on there label and all they need to do to change the expiration date on your product is to print new labels or apply a new sticker!
To bring this in for a landing and to come back to Richard being a 'victim of cross contamination' he could have been a more responsible professional Crossfit athlete by choosing a product that meets my 5 rules for picking a clean and safe supplement however in the end unfortunately even following these rules does not guarantee anything until there are more stringent rules and regulations that surround the wild west of supplement/vitamin manufacturing. i will leave you with a quote directly from the Crossfit drug policy.
"YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT YOU PUT INTO YOUR BODY... Before consuming any nutritional/dietary supplement product, research the product and consult a physician or pharmacist. Dietary supplements are not well regulated and may cause a positive drug test result. Athletes have tested positive using dietary supplements, even when labels claim the product is safe and compliant. Many dietary supplements are contaminated with unlisted banned substances. Any product containing a dietary supplement ingredient is taken at your own risk. It is your responsibility to know what you are ingesting."