New Year’s Resolution: Find Safe Supplements

Whey Protein

Whey ProteinIn Part 1 of our newsletter on Dietary Supplements, we gave you an overview of the unregulated dietary supplement industry, how products become adulterated through deliberate use of prohibited ingredients by the supplement company or the cross contamination and poor quality control of the supplement manufacturer. In Part 2, we will discuss the challenges with the supplement purchasing process, the missing link to solving this problem, and how to determine if the products you are taken have been tested by a 3rd party lab to ensure they are clean and free of banned substances.

Can you trust the Supplement Store Staff?

The majority of Americans are overwhelmed and intimidated when they walk into supplement store or Pharmacy due to the abundance of options available. It’s not uncommon for the average consumer to rely on the advice of a supplement store staff clerk. Rarely, do these individuals have a degree in dietetics or nutritional science, have extensive dietary supplement education, understand the science behind the ingredients, or have familiarity with what products are 3rd party tested and free of banned substances. At the same time, supplement companies present their employees as experts in health and wellness products.

In 2013, there was a 14 year old athlete who recently had a cardiovascular procedure to correct an abnormal heart beat who was recommended and sold a stimulant with 3 stimulants, one of those being synephrine which is prohibited by the NCAA and many professional sports. In 2016, I was informed by 3 high school coaches and 2 athletic trainers who contacted me concerned about supplements their athletes purchased from the local supplement store. Three high school athletes were sold Prohormones (similar side effects as steroids) while another four high school athletes were sold a Pre-Workout with synephrine.
In a study published in Pediatrics (2017), 244 health food stores were contacted evaluate if the supplement store clerk would recommend creatine or testosterone boosters to a 15 year old football player. In total, 67% of all sales attendants recommended creatine for a 15 year old boy and 38.5% recommended creatine without asking any questions or being prompted to do so. Overall, 9.8% of sales attendants recommended a testosterone booster.

Our biggest concern and risk may lie with trusting someone without the proper credentials to sell an unregulated dietary supplement.

capsules of creatine and protein measuring spoons

3rd Party Testing and Certification

With the abundance of supplement brands and products on the market, it can be very difficult for the consumer to know which supplements are safe. This is why we must rely on the testing and certification process of a 3rd party lab. NSF has been considered the gold standard in 3rd party testing and many supplement companies have chosen NSF to test their products. NSF’s testing program focuses primarily on the supplement manufacturing and sourcing process, which provides key preventive measures to:

• Verify label claims against product contents
• Protect against the adulteration of products with prohibited substances
• Help identify substances banned for competition in the finished product or ingredients

This testing program prevents consumers from taking a product that may contain an ingredient harmful to their health. To learn more about which products are 3rd party tested by NSF, visit
What is the Missing Link?

One of the primary reasons young athletes are turning to supplements is because of poor eating habits and insufficient calorie intake. Their current patterns of eating lead to a lack of muscle growth, strength, and body weight which causes them to look for the answer in a pill or powder. Nutrition is their secret weapon and missing link to optimize peak performance. By establishing proper meal timing combined with a balance of quality food choices, this will reduce their chances of looking for the answer in a supplement store.

How Does THF Help?

With abundance of supplement brands and products on the market, it can be very difficult to know what you are taking. We are here to help. Our educational programs provide an in depth look at the supplement industry and how to navigate these products. Our nutrition program also provides strategies to properly fuel yourself and combat the need to use many supplement products. Contact us to learn more about scheduling a program at your school.

UFC suspends Carlos Diego Ferreira 17 months for doping violation


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USADA is deviating from a Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) sanction in the case of Carlos Diego Ferreira.

The UFC’s anti-doping partner suspended Ferreira for 17 months for admitted use of a banned substance and a positive drug test for another banned substance, USADA announced Wednesday.

The NAC only suspended Ferreira for one year back in June. The Brazilian fighter is eligible to return to the UFC in September 2017.

Ferreira tested positive for ostarine in an out-of-competition drug test conducted April 29. He also admitted the use of a supplement which contained 7-keto-dehydroepiandrosterone (7-keto-DHEA) as an ingredient on the label, USADA said in its release. The drug test sample which showed ostarine also had results consistent with 7-keto-DHEA usage, per USADA.

Ferreira (12-2) claimed the ostarine came from a tainted supplement, the same one that had 7-keto-DHEA on the label as an ingredient. Ferreira said he was unaware that 7-keto-DHEA was a prohibited substance, much like Lyoto Machida’s argument about the very same drug last month. Machida was hit with an 18-month suspension by USADA.

USADA said it had Ferreira’s supplement tested at the WADA-accredited lab in Salt Lake City and it came back positive for 7-keto-DHEA as well as ostarine.

Ferreira’s tainted supplement defense proved legitimate, which is why USADA said it gave him a 17-month suspension rather than the full two years he was facing. Level of fault and cooperation play into USADA’s decision on length of sanction and USADA determined that Ferreira did do some due diligence to see if he was taking a banned substance.

UFC fighter Tim Means had a suspension reduced to six months when USADA found that his positive test for ostarine stemmed from a tainted supplement. But Ferreira’s use of a product with 7-keto-DHEA on the label seemed to work against him in this case.

The 17-month suspension is retroactive to April 29, when the positive sample was collected. The UFC will recognize and enforce USADA’s ban, rather than the one-year suspension mandated by the NAC.

16 Year Old Girl Suspended for Doping

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BUDAPEST, Hungary — The International Weightlifting Federation has suspended 16-year-old  for four years and banned Yuliya Kalina for two years for doping.

The federation says Popovici, Romania’s national champion in the 48-kilogram category, tested positive for the anabolic steroid Stanozolol in an out-of-competition test.

Popovici, a member of the Botosani Sporting Club, tested positive after she won the national title this year.

Kalina won bronze at the 2012 Olympics but was stripped of her medal this year after a reanalysis of her doping sample.

The federation says four other weightlifters were also suspended: Malvina Soledad Veron of Argentina, Sergei Dolgalev of Kyrgyzstan, Moises Cartagena of Puerto Rico and Adham Badr Masood Marzoq of Yemen.

Children as young as 12 using steroids

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Sheffield Hallam University is launching a new scheme to target doping in sport – after research showed children as young as 12 had admitted using performance enhancing drugs.

European-wide research by universities identified a number of children who had reported use of performance enhancing substances like anabolic steroids.

The SAFE YOU project also showed at least one in 10 young adult recreational exercisers had used anabolic steroids. In response, Sheffield Hallam University has teamed up with Kingston University in London and Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece to deliver the SAFE YOU+: Strengthening the anti-doping fight in fitness and exercise in youth scheme.

It will target young exercisers aged between 16 and 25 with an educational tool to help them resist doping use.

The tool will aim to give information about the myths and realities of doping use. The tool is an online educational resource that was jointly developed by expert scientists, young exercisers in the UK and four other European countries.

Dr Lambros Lazuras, senior lecturer in psychology at Sheffield Hallam University and co-investigator for SAFE YOU+, said: “Doping in sports has received global attention in recent years due to some very high-profile cases.

“Doping in exercise settings and amateur sports has arguably become more important than in elite sports. “Average gym goers and amateur athletes are putting themselves at risk through lack of knowledge, reduced accountability, and the inability to regulate intake of what could be potentially very dangerous substances.”
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Why Men Have More Body Image Issues Than Ever

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How Hollywood ideals are messing with men’s heads, leading real-world guys to take dangerous drugs

Superheroes today are a lot more shredded than they used to be. The original Superman and Batman look almost willowy compared to our muscle-bursting modern-day versions.

That’s no coincidence. America is in the midst of a cultural shift in terms of the ideal male body image, and as the ideal man grows more muscular, men stuck in the real world with real bodies are growing less satisfied with theirs—with potentially dangerous medical consequences.

“If you think about the changes over the last 30 to 45 years in how men are depicted in Hollywood, cartoons, magazines and action toys, you’ll see that men’s bodies [today] appear much more muscular,” says Dr. Harrison Pope, director of the Biological Psychiatry Laboratory at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts. These unrealistic media images have contributed to low body image satisfaction among men—usually just considered a problem for women. A study last year found that American men are just as likely as women to feel unsatisfied with their physiques, while another study found adolescent boys who are dissatisfied with their body shape may be more likely than girls to self-criticize and feel distress. Studies have even shown that men feel worse about their bodies after playing video games with ripped characters.

 “There’s this drumbeat that muscularity equals masculinity, and so we’re seeing more and more young men with muscle dysmorphia,” says Pope. The consequences of this kind of thinking can be dangerous. As more and more men hit the gym in the hopes of transforming themselves into the Rock, many are also turning to anabolic steroids to achieve the muscle mass they associate with masculinity. Up to 4 million Americans—nearly all of them male—have tried steroids at some point, according to Pope’s recent research.

“There’s a widespread misperception that anabolic steroid use is an issue of cheating in sports, but the vast majority of anabolic steroid users in this country are not athletes,” says Shalender Bhasin, a men’s health researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Pope’s co-author on a new article in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “Most young men using these drugs are doing it to improve their appearance.”

The potential side effects of anabolic steroids include premature death and neurobehavioral disturbances, like problems with thinking and attention. But Pope says the links to heart problems are the most worrying. “There’s a growing body of literature that suggests long-term steroid use can cause cardio myopathy, where the heart doesn’t pump or fill with blood efficiently.” That could lead to heart attack or stroke, he says.

It’s not yet clear just how significant these heart risks are, because steroid use is a relatively new phenomenon. Pope says few men used them before the 1980s, and those early adopters are just now hitting their 50s and 60s—ages when heart problems take their toll.

Another big risk of steroid use is hormone dysfunction. “If you’re taking steroids, your body sees all this testosterone coming in from the outside, and so it stops producing it,” Pope explains. Bhasin says that can lead to psychiatric problems, from “roid rage” to suicidal thoughts.

Also, when men stop using steroids, their bodies’ testosterone production often struggles to ramp back up. The resulting lack of the sex hormone can lead to depression, irritability, erectile dysfunction, low sex drive and more, Pope explains.

Few doctors or psychologists realize how common steroid use and abuse has become, say Pope and Bhasin, and almost none are trained to treat steroid addiction or dependence. Men taking steroids who want to quit therefore have few professional resources, which may lead many to go back on steroids or try other substances—like cocaine or opioids—in order to feel better, Bhasin says.

“Until we see greater awareness of this problem and more attention paid to treating it,” Pope says, “most of these men are on their own.”

Ex-USC football player pleads guilty to running drug ring


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Owen Hanson, a former USC football player accused of running an international drug ring, pled guilty Tuesday and agreed to a minimum prison sentence of 20 years.

US Magistrate Judge Mitchell Dembin of San Diego federal court said the sentence could be extended to life for Hanson’s admitted crimes of dealing hundreds of kilos of cocaine, heroin and steroids.

In addition, the judge ordered Hanson, 34, to forfeit $5 million in cash and up to $20 million in personal property.

Hanson, who also played volleyball at Southern Cal a decade ago, managed at least five accomplices in a retail-and-wholesale drug operation based in the US and Australia, sources said.

One of the dealer’s sidelines was supplying performance-enhancing drugs to professional athletes, according to sources familiar with the case.

Hanson began his life of crime by running illegal sports-betting operations overseas, where he developed a reputation for collecting gambling debts quickly, aggressively — and sometimes violently.

Early this decade, while still an international bookmaker, he allegedly saw and exploited opportunities to export cocaine from his native Los Angeles, where a kilo went for $20,000, to Australia, where it could fetch more than $150,000.

Hanson became a person of interest to Australian authorities after retaining a professional gambler, RJ Cipriani (aka Robin Hood 702), to launder $2.5 million in cash through local casinos, according to court papers.

Cipriani gambled the money away and returned to the US — only to have his and his wife’s lives threatened by Hanson unless he made good on the $2.5 million loss, according to court papers.

Cipriani took his case to the FBI, which eventually led to Hanson’s arrest at a San Diego golf course in September 2015.

“My family and I are elated that such a dangerous criminal has been put away in jail for a long time,” Cipriani told The Post. “Let it be known that those who meddle in the horrible business of drug peddling do so at their peril.”

Adam Silver Responds to Allegations of PED Use in NBA

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Former NBA head coach George Karl alleged in his new book Furious George: My Forty Years Surviving NBA Divas, Clueless GMs and Poor Shot Selection that the NBA has a performance-enhancing drug problem it has yet to confront, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver responded to those claims at a press conference Thursday.

Speaking to reporters before the Denver Nuggets took on the Indiana Pacers in London, Silver explained there has been no concrete evidence presented to this point that shows NBA players are doping to gain a competitive edge.

“I’ll just say our testing is state-of-the-art,” Silver said, according to USA Today. “I have no reason to believe whatsoever that we have an issue, either as the result of testing or as the result of other information that comes to the league office.”

Silver added that Karl is the only prominent figure associated with the NBA to make such damning allegations.

“Other than what George Karl wrote in his book, there is no chatter whatsoever in the league,” he said. “Obviously, many reporters are in this room who cover the NBA; presumably if they thought there was an issue, they would be writing about it.”

Silver concluded that while Karl’s claims are unfounded, the league takes allegations of PED use “incredibly seriously” and that it will sift through the book to further examine the 65-year-old’s assertions.

According to USA Today, Karl wrote the following in Furious George about what he believes is a growing problem in the NBA: “It’s obvious some of our players are doping. How are some guys getting older—yet thinner and fitter? How are they recovering from injuries so fast? Why the hell are they going to Germany in the offseason? I doubt it’s for the sauerkraut.”

Karl also said players are likely heading abroad “for the newest, hard-to-detect blood boosters and PEDs they have in Europe.”

Of course, just because a player travels to Germany doesn’t mean he is dabbling in performance enhancers.

Kobe Bryant popularized platelet-rich plasma therapy after he traveled to Germany for treatment on his arthritic right knee, and several players followed suit.

Stephen Curry received PRP treatments last postseason to treat a knee issue, and former Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers center Andrew Bynum did the same to try to revitalize his career.

Another NFL player suspended: Cowboys’ Gregory banned one year for substance abuse

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Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory has been suspended without pay for at least one year for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy for the third time.

The NFL announced the suspension on Thursday. The punishment begins immediately and prevents Gregory from playing for Dallas in the playoffs.

All three of Gregory’s suspensions have come in the past year. He served a four-game suspension at the start of the 2016 season and then served a 10-game suspension for his second offense.

Gregory also failed a drug test for marijuana at the NFL combine in 2015.

Gregory, a second-round pick, played in Weeks 16 and 17 of this season and recorded his first career sack.

Carleton University football player suspended 2 years for doping

Daniel McNicoll

Daniel McNicoll

Canada’s leading anti-doping agency has issued a two-year sports suspension to a Carleton University football player who tested positive for a banned substance following last year’s Panda Game.

Ravens defensive back Daniel McNicoll provided a urine sample to the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) on Oct.1, 2016, the day Carleton took on the University of Ottawa in the annual cross-town classic. Test results revealed the presence of D- and L-amphetamine.

Amphetamine is a stimulant often used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy but can also lead to adverse effects, such as weight loss and insomnia. The substance is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

‘Surprised and disappointed’

‘We do quite extensive education with our student athletes so we were quite upset that this happened.’– Jennifer Brenning, Dir. of Athletics, Carleton U.

“I was very surprised and disappointed,” said Jennifer Brenning, the Director of Recreation and Athletics at Carleton University, who said McNicoll admitted to taking the brand-name drug Adderal without a prescription.

“We do quite extensive education with our student athletes so we were quite upset that this happened.”

Fourth-year Carleton University Ravens football player Daniel McNicoll has been suspended from playing sports for two years. (Carleton University)

This is the first time McNicoll has tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug according to the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport.

He was issued an automatic two-year suspension from any sport that has signed onto the Canadian Anti-Doping Program. McNicoll’s suspension will end Nov. 9, 2018. He waived his right to a hearing after learning the test results.

“We met with Daniel several times. He’s a very good student athlete. He admitted and was very remorseful and certainly took complete ownership of his actions, accepted the sanctions immediately,” said Brenning.

Took drug to help studies

The CCES investigation also determined McNicoll did not actually use the drug to boost his performance on the field but rather in the classroom.

“He had taken the substance not from a sport performance perspective,” said Brenning. “He was in the middle of midterms and he took the substance for that purpose, to study.”

According to the Ravens’ website, McNicoll is a fourth-year civil engineering student at Carleton, who is from Hamilton. He joined the Carleton squad in 2013 when the football program was resurrected after being cancelled in 1998.

Brenning said even before the suspension, McNicoll was unsure whether he was going to rejoin the Ravens next fall because of his workload at school. She said in her 11 years at Carleton, this is the first time an athlete has been suspended for a doping infraction.

Anabolic-Androgenic Steroids Pose a Critical Health Issue



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More research is needed to address the critical health problems associated with the use of anabolic-androgenic steroids among American men, according to Harrison G. Pope, MD, MPH, writing in a new opinion paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Pope is the director of the Biological Psychiatry Laboratory at McLean Hospital, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and first author of the Viewpoint paper.

In the paper, Pope and his co-authors, Jag Khalsa, PhD, of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and Shalender Bhasin, MD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, warn that there may be millions of American men—the majority of whom are not competitive athletes—who risk health consequences from the use of anabolic-androgenic steroids—the family of drugs that includes testosterone and its many synthetic derivatives.

“The widespread abuse of anabolic steroids by a growing fraction of American’s young men is a pressing public health problem that requires a concerted national effort,” said Bhasin. “Because men may hide their use and abuse of steroids, there is a lack of research outlining effective strategies to prevent or treat the long-term consequences of steroid use,” Pope added.

Over the last several decades, the image of the idealized male body in much of the western world has shifted toward a higher level of muscularity. Today’s young men are constantly exposed to muscular male images—on magazine covers, in ads, on television, and in the movies.

“Even children’s action toys, such as GI Joe, have become significantly more muscular than their predecessors of the 1960s,” Dr. Pope said.

This focus on muscularity in Western culture has led to a rising prevalence of “muscle dysmorphia,” a form of body image disorder characterized by an obsessive preoccupation with a muscular appearance.

Men with muscle dysmorphia may show elevated rates of mood and anxiety disorders, obsessive and compulsive behaviors, and impairment of social and occupational functioning. In their relentless pursuit of muscularity, these men are particularly at risk for long-term use of steroids.

New studies point to an increased risk of premature death, cardiovascular disorders, and psychiatric effects due to use of steroids.

In addition to further research, Pope and his colleagues cite the importance of raising awareness among the public, health care practitioners, and policymakers about the serious health consequences of steroids.

“We need to understand that modern media images that falsely equate muscularity with masculinity can be very damaging,” Pope said.

McLean Hospital is the largest psychiatric affiliate of Harvard Medical School and a member of Partners HealthCare. For more information about McLean, visit or follow the hospital on Facebook or Twitter.