The Catch-22 of Anti-Doping Testing For High School Athletes

Very few school districts have an anti-doping testing program. As a result, high school athletes and coaches who compete at national tournaments and meets where testing occurs are sometimes unfamiliar with the process.

This story is part of a series about former high school high jumper Eric Thompson, who in 2007 tested positive for a small amount of cocaine while at a junior national meet and was subsequently suspended by the United States Anti-Doping Agency. His case set a precedent for future anti-doping sanctions.

The vast majority of the 7.8 million high school athletes in the United States will never take an anti-doping test. For one, it’s expensive. In 2013, the New York Times reportedthat school districts in IllinoisNew Jersey and Texas each paid a private company at least $100,000 per year to set up steroid testing. In Illinois, a $100,000 fee paid for just 500 tests per year, Craig Anderson, executive director of the Illinois High School Association, told the Illinois Radio Network.

But secondly, and perhaps most importantly, it’s not particularly clear whether the testing is all that effective and worth the cost. During the 2014-15 school year, the University Interscholastic League in Texas tested 3,023 students for steroids. Only six tests came back positive, a .02 percent rate that is far below the US Anti-Doping (USADA) average of about 1-2 percent positive tests per year. Anderson told theMcHenry Times that only three positive tests that resulted in disciplinary actions occurred in the five years the Illinois testing program was in place. Citing cost and effectivity, in June the Illinois High School Association announced it had ended its testing program.

Educating high school athletes on anti-doping, especially the WADA anti-doping code, is difficult. According to their annual report, most of USADA’s budget last year ($11.5 million of the $19.7 million) went toward actual testing of elite athletes. The bulk of their high school outreach comes at the events themselves, where USADA sets up booths and has representatives on hand to answer questions. Last year, USADA spent $2.9 million on “education and awareness.”


High school athletes who compete at events such as the Junior Outdoor Track & Field Championships are subject to anti-doping tests. Photo by Joe Robbins-USA Today Sports


“We do reach out to high-school level athletes, as best we can, to make sure they are educated on anti-doping rules, supplements, testing and other important information,” USADA spokesman Ryan Madden told VICE Sports. “Most often, this occurs through resources such as booths, presentations (both in person and webinars) and educational materials that are sent to them. We also try to be a resource for athletes facing potential substance abuse issues, and the most important thing is to get young athletes help when they need it. We also, obviously, educate through online tutorials, resources posted on, and social media.”

For high school athletes, this means much of the onus on anti-doping education rests on coaches and parents.

Coaches from major metropolitan areas who have experience training young elite athletes will be far more familiar with anti-doping protocols than the odd high school coach who happens to have a transcendent talent on her hands. Indeed, many young athletes who show tremendous promise at young ages move to urban areas to train with those coaches. But if they don’t, they’re getting doping advice from amateur coaches who are donating their time. In those cases, they probably know just as much about anti-doping as the kids do.

This was exactly Eric Thompson’s situation as a Junior Olympic champion high jumper in high school. His high jump coach, Eric Smith, works in insurance and told VICE Sports he gets paid $1 by the school district for being a coach. Smith says he does it out of love for the sport and mentoring kids. Thompson’s track and field head coach at the time, Chad Lakatos, was an inexperienced head coach, who didn’t know to emphasize the ramifications of a positive drug test. He now uses Thompson’s story as a cautionary tale for his current athletes.

So, like the vast majority of high school athletes, Thompson was mostly on his own when it came to testing.
For THF’s thoughts on HS testing, please read this blog post:  

Lift Like a Girl

Karishma Sharma

Of grit, steel and sacrifice—a quick peek into the world of female competitive bodybuilding

Deepika Chowdhury’s tryst with sweat and iron wasn’t just metamorphic; it was cathartic. “I had a very disturbed childhood, was a weak child and grew up with an inferiority complex,” she says. Bodybuilding changed everything for her says the Pune-based Chowdhury, the country’s first figure athlete to hold an IFBB (International Federation of Body Building) pro card.

She began working out in 2014 because, “I was getting tired and stressed at work so people told me to join a gym,” says the 33-year-old, who also holds a day job as a molecular biologist. It was uncomfortable at first, she says, weaving between weights and machines, feeling like an absolute novice. Then the gym manager suggested that she complete a basic fitness trainer and sports nutrition course. So, she applied for one and got certified. “Once I started learning, the knowledge spurred me to do better,” says Chowdhury, who recently stood 7th at the Arnold Classic, the second-biggest bodybuilding championship in the world.

Toned and fabulous

Welcome to the world of female competitive bodybuilding. There are few women from India who are entering this testosterone-laden sport, but the ones who do seem to be gathering laurels.

“I think Indians are genetically very gifted in this sport: if we train well and our diet is good, we are usually in the top five when we compete internationally,” believes Bengaluru-based Sonali Swami, all of 42, and the mother of two young children. Swami, a group fitness class instructor, began training with weights at the age of 38. “I was sore all over, but I loved the experience,” she admits, adding that she soon decided to take it to the next level by participating in an international physique competition for women. She was a little nervous that first time, she remembers. Not only was she competing with much younger women, but she also had to wear a bikini and step on stage. However, she went on to win that contest and participate in several more, including the Asian Bodybuilding Championship last year, where she won a bronze.

For Yashmeen Chauhan Manak, who won the Miss India bodybuilding championship twice and a bronze at Miss Asia, it began with trying to lose weight, “through cardio and a strict diet”. But she lost all her curves in the process, she says, and began lifting weights to regain them. There was no looking back from there, says Manak, owner of Gurgaon’s Sculpt Gym. “I didn’t choose this sport, it chose me.”

What lies beneath

Spangled bikinis, six-pack abs and posing is all very well, but getting there is a hard journey marked by tremendous discipline, consistency, and let’s face it, sacrifice.

Ask fitness athlete, Karishma Sharma. “I wake up at 5.30 am, have my black coffee, pack all my meals for the day and head off to the gym near my office,” says the 36-year-old, who competes internationally in the Bikini category. She holds a corporate job, but still manages to train 5-6 times a week for at least 90 minutes, and eats extremely clean, toting around a mini-fridge filled with food to ensure that she sticks to her eating schedule.

Sixty-five per cent of her food is protein — chicken, eggs and fish, mostly — while the remaining consists of complex carbohydrates like brown rice and oats and good fats like nuts, peanut butter and olives. Also, socialising is often almost impossible, especially during competitions as, “one has got to really watch the macros and micros and salt intake at that time,” she says.

But she believes it is worth it. “Bodybuilding requires three things — dedication, consistency and passion. You cannot do this if you do not enjoy the process. I enjoy the process and now this is my lifestyle,” she says.

Making the cut

Typically, an athlete goes through two phases: a bulking phase and a cutting phase. “Bulking is a more relaxed phase,” explains Arunava Bhattacharyya, a certified sports nutrition expert and personal trainer. You still train hard and eat clean, but it is not as intense as your cutting phase, where you end up training several times a day, reducing carbohydrates drastically and increasing the amount of supplements and protein you ingest. “That is how you get that fine detailing where every single (muscle) fibre is defined,” he says, According to him, athletes stop consuming salt, carbohydrates and water, as they edge towards an event, to get that superbly toned look.

Competition Categories
  • 1. Bikini: You need to have curves at the right places, and are toned, but you remain slightly softer. Performed in stilettos.
  • 2. Fitness: You get a short time to exhibit all your flexibility, endurance, strength etc.
  • 3. Figure: You have some curves and muscle, but are not intensely defined. The “X” body shape is desired. Muscle separated, not striated. Performed in stilettos.
  • 4. Physique: More hard-core. More shredded and muscular. Performed barefoot.
  • 5. Bodybuilding: Hard core. Muscles and striations clearly defined, almost androgynous in shape.

Sounds formidable? It is, confirms award-winning sports nutritionist, Ryan Fernando. “Extremely competitive diets cannot be sustained long-term,” says Fernando, pointing out that this could impact your organs in the long run. Another more frightening aspect is the use of steroids and hormones. Since women do not have testosterone, they cannot bulk up as much as men do, and so are often forced to resort to harmful chemicals. “The vanity factor coupled with the desire to win are two very powerful heady cocktails and you want to push boundaries to achieve your goals,” he says, adding that he does not endorse steroid-driven bodybuilding.

And it isn’t just what they undergo physically. They struggle to get sponsorship or proper coaches, are mocked for being part of a sport that challenges the norms of femininity, and have to spend large amounts of money on nutrition and supplementation. “You are talking about lakhs here,” explains Bhattacharyya. Food, stay, travel, supplements — it all adds up, he says.

Chowdhury, who is trying to garner funds for her next show, agrees that it is not an easy path she treads. But she continues to do it, day after day: training, preparing her food, balancing her passion and profession. “The physical transformation is what people see, but there is so much more than that. I wake up with something I look forward to every day and I love it. 

Careful, Your Dietary Supplements Might Contain Steroids

Dietary supplements contain anabolic steroids. / Image: King Features

Hardcore Formulations is recalling all lots of Ultra-Sten and D-Zine capsules due to the presence of anabolic steroids.

Athletes beware! A recent FDA press announcement says that capsules marketed by Hardcore Formulations as dietary supplements for bodybuilding contain anabolic steroids. The two products, Ultra-Sten and D-Zine, are labeled to contain methylstenbolone and dymethazine respectively, which are considered to be derivatives of anabolic steroids. This has lead to a voluntary recall of all lots and expiration dates of the supplements, which are packaged in 90-count bottles.

The presence of steroids renders the products unapproved drugs. According to the article, consumption could cause a myriad of interesting effects including: elevated blood pressure, aggressive behavior, male infertility, female baldness, shrinkage of testes, and a deeper voice. Hardcore Formulations has notified its retailers of the recall via formal notification letter. Consumers in possession of the products should cease use and either return them to the source, or discard them.

Pirates to host kids at PNC for PLAY campaign

PITTSBURGH — Between the first two games against the Brewers, the Pirates will play host to the national PLAY campaign Tuesday morning at PNC Park.

PLAY, which stands for Promoting a Lifetime of Activity for Youth, is a public awareness campaign of the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS) in conjunction with the Ruderman Family Foundation, the Taylor Hooton Foundation and the Henry Schein Cares Foundation. It will host events in all 30 Major League parks this year, with children from ages 8-17 selected to take part. There have been more than 300 events since 2004, reaching thousands of children with messages about the importance of healthy decisions and active lifestyles.

The program was created in 2004 to promote healthy living and disability inclusion among children. In 2014, the PLAY campaign became the first program in professional sports to include children with disabilities. It has since added a fully inclusive aspect in partnership with the Ruderman Family Foundation and the National Down Syndrome Society.

The NDSS will bring a group of young people with disabilities to 10 PLAY programs this season, including Tuesday’s event at PNC Park. The Pirates will be represented by reliever Tony Watson, head athletic trainer Todd Tomczyk, assistant athletic trainer Ben Potenziano, sports science coordinator Brendon Huttmann, strength coach Ricky White and physical therapist Kevin “Otis” Fitzgerald.

“The ultimate goal of the PLAY campaign is to do nothing less than change America’s perception about the value of people with disabilities,” Tomczyk said.

According to Tomczyk, members of PBATS hope to show that everyone deserves an opportunity in their workplaces, whether in sports or any other walk of life. But they can use baseball to demonstrate how people with disabilities have made a difference and deserve inclusion.

On Tuesday morning, however, the goal can best be summarized by the event’s acronym: The Pirates want everyone in attendance to play.

“Play on the same field as Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco, and warm up in the same bullpen as Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole,” Tomczyk said. “It’s getting the kids out, getting the youth out, and having them experience what Major League players do every day.” 

Anabolic steroids cause workout supplement capsules to be recalled

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Four brands of workout supplement pills with anabolic steroid ingredients have been yanked from the market in mass recalls.

Andropharm recalled all lot numbers and expiration dates of Sten Z and M1 Alpha capsules, sold in 60-count bottles in retail stores nationwide and online. Andropharm pushed both as helping enhance muscularity. But the capsules contain derivatives of anabolic steroids, thus rendering them unapproved drugs.

The same is true of Hardcore Formulations’ Ultra-Sten and D-Zine capsules, bodybuilding supplements sold in 90-count bottles. calls Ultra-Sten “the strongest single compound prohormone on the market today.”

Ultra-Sten is now off the market (officially) because it and D-Zine contain, respectively, methylstenbolone and dymethazine.

People with any of these capsules are asked to toss them out or, if unopened, return them to the store for a refund. Consumers with questions can e-mail or call Andropharm at 1-855- 632-7667 Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Eastern time; or e-mail or call Hardcore Formulations at 1-855-773-6826 Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time. 

NFL suspends Rams WR Mike Thomas 4 games, cites PEDs policy

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Mike Thomas, the Los Angeles Rams‘ second-year receiver, has been suspended without pay for the first four games of the 2017 season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances, the league said Friday.

Thomas will be eligible to participate in all preseason practices and games, but won’t be eligible for the Rams’ 53-man roster until Oct. 2, after the team’s Week 4 road game against the Dallas Cowboys.

A sixth-round pick out of Southern Miss, Thomas barely played as a rookie and committed two notable mistakes when he received opportunities down the stretch — fumbling the opening kickoff against the Falcons, and then dropping a potential long touchdown against the Seahawks. But as one of few true deep threats on the roster, Thomas seemed to be carving out a role in head coach Sean McVay’s offense and appeared to have a chance to make the team out of training camp.

The Rams and the Chargers will each pay $645 million over nine years and the Raiders $378 million over 10 years in relocation fees that will be paid to the other 29 NFL teams, sources say.

During the offseason program, Thomas said he has undergone “tremendous growth” from his first to his second year.

“My rookie year, I was a little hesitant,” Thomas said then. “Just being at a new level, new environment, new coaches, I wasn’t feeling myself as far as playing fast. But now I know what to expect.”

Now, though, Thomas will sit out the first one-fourth of the Rams’ season.

He is the second Rams player to be suspended for the start of the season. Cornerback Troy Hill was dealt a two-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. The NFL says players are handed four-game suspensions on their first “positive test result for stimulant or anabolic agent.”

American gold medalist Gil Roberts ingested banned substance after passionate kisses

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Gil Roberts has been cleared of doping after the Olympic gold medallist was found to have ingested a banned substance through kissing his girlfriend.

Winner of gold in the 4×400-meter relay at the Rio Games last year, the American sprinter tested positive for probenecid on March 24.

 The 28-year-old pleaded his innocence, telling the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) he contaminated the substance from his girlfriend, Alex Salazar – who had been taking medication to treat a sinus infection.

Salazar pulled apart a capsule of medicine that she had obtained in India, poured the contents of the capsule in her mouth, then washed it down with water.

And an arbitrator ruled in Roberts’ favor, claiming “this was not a case of intentional doping”.

“[F]or Roberts it must have been like lightning out of a clear blue sky for him to learn that by kissing his girlfriend this time that he was exposing himself to a prohibited substance,” Judge John Charles Thomas said.

The report mentioned that Roberts had been “tested for nearly a decade and had been found to be clean”, while “the amount of probenecid found in his sample is too small to have a masking effect, nor was there any evidence that he had ingested probenecid from any other sources.”

Rockies slugger Charlie Blackmon joins forces with Hooton Foundation’s ‘All Me League’ in fight against steroids

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Like most of the 2017 Home Run Derby participants, Charlie Blackmon, the bushy-bearded Rockies outfielder, was in awe of Yankee slugger Aaron Judge’s Ruthian blasts during the showcase event.

“Hits the ball a long way,” Blackmon said Friday of Judge, before Blackmon and the Rockies got pounded by the Mets at Citi Field. “He makes it look easy.”

But while Blackmon acknowledged that Judge has about a 100-pound weight advantage on him and most other players in the majors, the Rockies two-time All-Star said that he believes the towering Judge is socking homers naturally — and without any chemical enhancement.

“Aaron Judge is like 100 pounds heavier than everybody else. It’s not like he needs that. He wakes up every day stronger than everybody. But I think he’s doing it the right way – being clean. That’s his advantage,” said Blackmon.

Sammy Sosa compares PED accusations with the trials Jesus faced

This season, home runs seem to be flying out of ballparks at will, and players like Judge are channeling the Bambino and socking tape-measure blasts. Blackmon was only 12 in 1998, when the single-season home run chase by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa unfolded, but was later tainted by suspicions of performance-enhancing drug use (McGwire admitted to his doping sins in 2010, five years after a Daily News expose on his steroid use and supplier). Similarly, the 2001 single-season homer mark of 73 by Barry Bonds has been marred by Bonds’ alleged PED use.

Charlie Blackmon says Aaron Judge's advantage is that he plays clean.

Charlie Blackmon says Aaron Judge’s advantage is that he plays clean.

Do fans look at 2017 in similar fashion, that drugs are helping spur the homer binge?

“Despite how unfortunate it is, our job is to question everything,” U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart said of USADA’s mission. “But it’s unfair for the public to do that based upon performance.” Tygart added some sobering statistics to put the issue in context: Between 1920 and 1998 (a stretch of over seven decades), baseball had a player hit over 50 homers in a season 23 times. Between ’98 and 2004, that stat was 13 times, during what could be considered the height of the Steroid Era. From 2004, when baseball’s drug-testing program was first implemented, to the present, a player has hit more than 50 dingers in a season seven times.


Blackmon, an advocate of clean play, said it was a no-brainer for him to join forces with the non-profit Taylor Hooton Foundation, which has been crusading against PED use for more than a decade.

“I’m very happy to do it. I think it’s a great cause,” said Blackmon, 31. “I want there to be a level playing field, but more importantly, I want kids to be healthy, to work hard and not put things in their body they shouldn’t be putting in there.”

Mark McGwire eventually admits his pursuit of baseball’s single-season HR record was fueled by PEDs.

Blackmon is one of 38 Major League players who agreed to be part of the Hooton Foundation’s “All Me League” campaign, where each player takes a pledge to “play clean of performance-enhancing drugs and live a healthy life on and off the field.”
Blackmon made his big league debut in 2011, two years before the Biogenesis doping scandal erupted and resulted in more than a dozen professional baseball players getting suspended, including Alex Rodriguez, who ended up with a season-long ban in 2014. Blackmon said as he climbed the minor-league ranks, and once he reached the majors, he followed the news about the positive drug tests among his baseball peers, especially when the Biogenesis scandal hit.

“You didn’t want to believe it was true,” said Blackmon. “Some players that are great players that you grew up watching – it’s a letdown to see that they were cheating. But at the same time, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. Maybe I was naïve to think that all those guys were naturally that big.”

The lefty-hitting Blackmon said he is not naïve now to think PED use has been eradicated in baseball – “I think there’s probably guys still taking things they shouldn’t be taking,” said Blackmon – even with a drug-testing program in place that enforces an 80-game ban for first-time PED offenders, a 162-game ban for a second positive test and a lifetime ban for a third PED strike. (MLB announced three suspensions Friday, including Rockies minor league pitcher Austin Wright getting suspended for the remainder of the ’17 season for a positive PED test).

Don Hooton posses with a photo of his late son Taylor Hooton in the background at his home Tuesday, March 17, 2015, in McKinney, Texas.

Don Hooton posses with a photo of his late son Taylor Hooton in the background at his home Tuesday, March 17, 2015, in McKinney, Texas.


When asked if he thinks a lifetime ban after a first positive PED test would be a more appropriate punishment, Blackmon said the players might be trending toward that idea soon.

“You know, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a no tolerance (policy) at some time. I mean, I don’t want to be competing against guys that are using. That’s not good. Since I have zero intention of using, I’m OK with other guys being gone for using,” said Blackmon. The Players Association and MLB collectively bargain the drug-testing policy and its rules and policies.

“I think it’s a good policy. It’s random,” Blackmon added. “I don’t know a lot about the chemistry, how they test what they test for. I just know it’s gonna be very risky to take something, being that you’re subject to testing almost every day of the year now.”

Tygart said that he thinks MLB is “running an ‘A’ program” when it comes to their drug testing efforts and Tygart said he is most impressed with how baseball implements its program — from blood and urine testing to baseball working with law enforcement in certain cases.

Don Hooton, whose son Taylor committed suicide in 2003 after abusing steroids and who is the namesake behind the Taylor Hooton Foundation, said that while he’s pleased with MLB’s progress on the fight against PED use, Hooton thinks the issue is “trending in the wrong direction” because of what he said is pervasive use among high school students.

“The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids says that seven percent of high school kids admitted to using anabolic steroids,” said Hooton. “Harvard professor Harrison Pope released a study that said in 80 percent of these cases, kids aren’t using for athletic reasons, they’re using for aesthetic reasons. Excessive body image.”

Hooton said that when his son Taylor was still alive, the younger Hooton would flex his muscles in front of the mirror, and would say to his mother, “Hey, look at my guns,” while showing off his biceps. Don Hooton said his son’s use of steroids may have started out to enhance his athletic ability, but later seemed to be more about looking ripped.

With the “All Me League” campaign, Hooton said he hopes the crop of players like Blackmon will help swing the pendulum back in the right direction on the dangers of doping.

“We’ve got some of the best stars in the league teaching kids what kind of image to uphold, so I’m hoping these role models can show our kids how to lead a straight-up, clean life on and off the field,” said Hooton.

Counterfeiters Sentenced for Convictions in Nationwide Conspiracy to Distribute Fake 5-Hour Energy Drink

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US Dept of Justice Press Release

SAN JOSE – Joseph Shayota and Adriana Shayota were sentenced to 86 months and 26 months in prison, respectively, for their roles in a conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods and conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement and to introduce misbranded food into interstate commerce. 

The announcement was made by United States Attorney Brian J. Stretch, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Office of Criminal Investigations’ Los Angeles Field Office Special Agent in Charge Lisa L. Malinowski.  The sentences were handed down yesterday by the Honorable Lucy H. Koh, U.S. District Court Judge, bringing an end to all but one of the cases brought against 11 defendants charged in a scheme involving the manufacture and sale of millions of bottles of the liquid dietary supplement 5-Hour ENERGY.

On November 28, 2016, a jury in San Jose found Joseph Shayota, 64, and his wife, Adriana Shayota, 45, (the Shayotas) guilty of conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods, as well as conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement and to introduce misbranded food into interstate commerce.  The criminal conduct began in late 2009 and ran through October 2012.  Over 3,700,000 bottles of counterfeit 5-Hour ENERGY were placed in the stream of interstate commerce.

Besides the Shayotas, other defendants charged with various roles in the scheme include: Justin Shayota, 33, of Spring Valley, Calif.; Walid Jamil, 57, of Troy, Mich.; Raid Jamil, 48, of West Bloomfield, Mich.; Kevin Attiq, 52, of El Cajon, Calif.; Fadi Attiq, 59, of El Cajon, Calif.; Leslie Roman, 63, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.; Mario Ramirez, 56, of San Diego; Camilo Ramirez, 32, of San Diego; and Juan Romero, 70, of Mexico City, Mexico. 

“Acting out of pure greed, these defendants gambled with the health and safety of millions of users of this well-known consumer product,” said U.S Attorney Brian Stretch.  “Consumers can rightly expect that the commercial products they buy are safe to ingest.  Those individuals who manufacture and distribute unsafe counterfeit food products will be prosecuted and sent to jail.”

“By trafficking in counterfeit dietary supplements, Joseph Shayota and Walid Jamil led an organized criminal conspiracy that violated intellectual property rights and endangered the health and safety of the public for their own financial gain,” said Special Agent in Charge Bennett.  “The FBI is committed to identifying, arresting, and prosecuting those who defraud US businesses and put consumers at risk in an attempt to line their own pockets.  I want to thank the FBI special agents and analysts, as well as our partners at the FDA and U.S. Attorney’s Office, for their tireless work on this investigation.”

“Criminals who mislead unsuspecting U.S. consumers by selling them counterfeit and false-labeled products cheat the American consumer and endanger the public’s health,” said Special Agent in Charge Malinowski. “We will continue to protect the U.S. consumer by working to bring to justice those who place profits above public health.”

At trial, the evidence demonstrated that the Shayotas, through their company Tradeway International Inc., (doing business as Baja Exporting, LLC), entered into an agreement with Living Essentials, LLC, to distribute 5-Hour ENERGY in Mexico.  Living Essentials owns 5-Hour ENERGY and registered and owns all 5-Hour ENERGY trademarks and related copyrights.  The company does not grant licenses to any individual or entity to manufacture 5-Hour ENERGY.  As part of the distribution agreement, Living Essentials manufactured and provided the Spanish-labeled 5-Hour ENERGY bottles to the Shayotas, who were unable to sell it in Mexico.  The Shayotas and their co-conspirators then removed the Spanish-language labels and replaced them with counterfeit English-language labels.  They also removed the true lot numbers and expiration dates placed on the bottles by Living Essentials and replaced them with false lot numbers and expiration dates.  The Shayotas and their co-conspirators sold this counterfeit-labelled product throughout the U.S.

The evidence at trial demonstrated that by early 2012, the Shayotas and their co-conspirators began to manufacture and sell an entirely counterfeit 5-Hour ENERGY product.  They manufactured the counterfeit 5-Hour ENERGY liquid at an unsanitary facility using untrained day workers, and mixed unregulated ingredients in vats in an attempt to mimic the real 5-Hour ENERGY products.  The Shayotas and their co-conspirators engaged a plastics manufacturer in Mexico to copy the 5-Hour ENERGY bottles and caps, and recruited co-conspirators in the San Diego area to create counterfeit display boxes and plastic sleeves (bottle labels), which appeared identical to the true boxes and labels.  The Shayotas and their co-conspirators also copied true lot numbers and expiration dates from genuine 5-Hour ENERGY and placed those numbers and dates on the counterfeit bottles that they had manufactured.

From approximately December 2011 through October 2012, the Shayotas and their co-conspirators ordered more than seven million counterfeit label sleeves and hundreds of thousands of counterfeit display boxes, and placed false lot and expiration codes on the bottles and boxes.  They often changed the lot and expiration codes on the counterfeit bottles and boxes to parallel the valid codes being used on the authentic product. 

The government filed a Superseding Information on June 29, 2016, charging each of the defendants with one count of conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §2320(a), and one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement and to introduce misbranded food into interstate commerce, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371.  Following this afternoon’s sentencing, the disposition as against eight of the defendants is as follows:




Charges and Disposition




Joseph Shayota


Found guilty by a jury on November 28, 2016, of

Conspiracy to Traffic in Counterfeit Goods, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2320(a), and Conspiracy to Commit Criminal Copyright Infringement and to Introduce

Misbranded Food into Interstate Commerce, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371.

Sentenced June 20, 2017, to 86 months in prison, 3 years of supervised release, a $144,868 fine, and forfeiture of $750,000.
Adriana Shayota


Found guilty by a jury on November 28, 2016, of

Conspiracy to Traffic in Counterfeit Goods, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2320(a) (Count One), and Conspiracy to Commit Criminal Copyright Infringement and to Introduce

Misbranded Food into Interstate Commerce, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 (Count Two).

Sentenced June 20, 2017, to 26 months in prison, 3 years of supervised release, and a fine of $144,868.


Walid Jamil


Pleaded guilty on

October 7, 2016, to Conspiracy to Traffic in Counterfeit Goods, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2320(a) (Count One), and Conspiracy to Commit Criminal Copyright Infringement and to Introduce

Misbranded Food into Interstate Commerce, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 (Count Two).

Sentenced on April 26, 2017, to 84 months on Count One and 60 months on Count Two, to be served concurrently; three years of supervised release; and $555,801.32 in restitution to Living Essentials.
Leslie Roman Pleaded guilty on September 23, 2016, to Conspiracy to Commit Criminal Copyright Infringement and to Introduce

Misbranded Food into Interstate Commerce, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371.

Sentenced on May 24, 2017, to 32 months’ imprisonment, 3 years supervised release, and restitution of $91,065.91 to Living Essentials.
Raid Jamil Pleaded guilty on September 13, 2016, Conspiracy to Commit Criminal Copyright Infringement and to Introduce

Misbranded Food into Interstate Commerce, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371.

Sentenced on May 17, 2017, to 24 months’ imprisonment, and three years of supervised release, and $268,936 in restitution to Living Essentials. This sentence was ordered to run consecutive to a 6-month sentence imposed in a separate case in the Eastern District of Michigan under Docket No. 16-CR-20623-001-JCO.
Kevin Attiq Pleaded guilty on November 4, 2016, to Conspiracy to Commit Criminal Copyright Infringement and to Introduce

Misbranded Food into Interstate Commerce, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371.

Sentenced on June 14, 2017, to three years of probation (to include eight months of home confinement) and a $20,000 fine.
Justin Shayota Pleaded guilty on

March 2, 2016, to Conspiracy to Traffic in Counterfeit Good, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2320(a), and Conspiracy to Commit Criminal Copyright Infringement and to Introduce

Misbranded Food into Interstate Commerce, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371.

Sentenced on June 14, 2017, to six months’ imprisonment, six months’ home confinement, three years of supervised release, and $555,801.32 in restitution to Living Essentials.


Mario Ramirez Pleaded guilty on November 9, 2016, to Conspiracy to Commit Criminal Copyright Infringement and to Introduce

Misbranded Food into Interstate Commerce, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371.


Sentenced on February 15, 2017, to five years of probation (to include six months home confinement) and a $30,000 fine. Agreed to pay restitution of $133,606.09 to Living Essentials.


The government referred defendants Camilo Ramirez and Fadi Attiq to pre-trial diversion and Juan Romero remains a fugitive.  The charges against Romero are merely allegations that crimes have been committed.  As with all defendants, he must be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Joseph and Adriana Shayota both were ordered to surrender on September 6, 2017, to begin serving their respective sentences.  

Assistant United States Attorneys Matt Parrella, Susan Knight, and Joseph Springsteen are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Lakisha Holliman and Elise Etter.  Assistant United States Attorney David Countryman assisted with forfeiture matters.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Food and Drug Administration Office of Criminal Investigations.


USAO – California, Northern 

A chemist explains boldenone: It is not popular with bodybuilders, and it should not be popular with baseball players, either.

Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

David Paulino recently received an 80-game suspension for violating the Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. He tested positive for the anabolic steroid boldenone, an alleged PED in the game of baseball. He will also be ineligible to play in the postseason, which the Astros are all but certain to make. At the time of this writing, the Astros are 56-27, have a 14.5-game lead in the AL West, and have a 99.9 percent chance of winning the division.

 Paulino ranked 83rd in Baseball Prospectus’s top 101 prospects for 2017, and has seen only a little action in the majors. He debuted last year and made only one start and two relief appearances for a total of 7 IP, giving up four runs while walking three and striking out only two. This season he made six starts and struggled badly. He has a 6.52 RA9 and averaged less than five innings per start. He did have very good strikeout and walk rates, but when he got hit, he got hit hard. A .354 BABIP is not too unlucky when you have a 40.5 percent hard-hit rate.

The good news for fans of the Astros is that Baseball Prospectus projects Paulino to be a number three or number four in the starting rotation. When he comes back next year, if he has continued to progress as expected, he should be a respectable starter.

The thing about taking boldenone is that it does not just make a player fail a drug test. It also means he failed an IQ test. Mets fans might be the most familiar with boldenone because it is part of Jenrry Mejía’s claim to fame (or rather, to infamy). His second and third failed drug tests were from boldenone, and that last one led to a lifetime suspension. Abraham Almonte also received an 80-game suspension last year for taking boldenone. At the time of his suspension, he was a below-average hitter for his career.

 Boldenone has been around for almost 70 years. In fact, with the exception of steroids developed at BALCO such as THG, any anabolic steroid you hear about in a failed test has been around for 50 years or more. That is why the belief that baseball players discovered them all of the sudden in the late ‘90s strains credulity.

Being around so long also means that the scientific community has had plenty of time to develop tests that can easily detect boldenone. Furthermore, it can be detected for months after a person has stopped taking it. Anecdotally, I have read about people who tested positive for it as many as 18 months after discontinuation. That is what I meant about the IQ test comment. A baseball player taking this substance in a sport that might have the strictest testing in the world either does not know what he is doing, or is not very bright.


Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of the chemistry here. I understand that not everybody remembers Lewis structures from high school chemistry, and even less people understand organic chemists’ shorthand for drawing molecules. I will do my best to present the material in a manner that everyone can understand.

Boldenone is very similar to testosterone. In fact, most anabolic steroids are. As you can see below, boldenone is just testosterone with an extra double bond.


That extra double bond is a small change, but as any medicinal chemist will tell you, a small change can have big effects. In this case, it decreases the molecule’s affinity to bind with an enzyme called estrogen synthase, which can convert the molecule into estrogen. This allows boldenone to retain the same anabolic properties as testosterone but with a lower incidence of estrogenic and androgenic side effects. As far as I know, one cannot obtain boldenone as the parent compound because it is sold as the undecylenate ester.

Boldenone undecylenate

That long carbon chain attached to what once was the hydroxy group functions as a way to prolong boldenone’s half-life and release rate. The ester of boldenone is inactive, but the body has enzymes that can cleave that oxygen-carbon bond. But that takes time, which is why the drug can stick around for longer. When a drug is installed with a metabolically labile but pharmacologically inactive substituent designed to be cleaved in the body, that is called a prodrug. This strategy is sometimes used when a drug has pharmacokinetic or solubility problems when used as is.

 The whole idea behind boldenone was to develop a long acting version of dianabol, also known as methandrostenolone. It has a half-life of only eight hours. Boldenone has a half-life of 14 days. Again, there are reports that it can be detected for up to a year and a half after discontinuation.

Boldenone undecylenate does have legitimate uses, though not in humans. It is a veterinary drug used primarily in horses. There is no government that I am aware of that has approved boldenone for any use in humans.

There are better anabolic steroids out there for bulking up, but boldenone is still effective at building lean muscle mass. That is useful for baseball players because it introduces the possibility of gaining strength without looking like the Hulk, which would obviously raise suspicion. Furthermore, remember what I said about the long half-life? That allows for slow and steady muscle gain, so there will not be any spikes in strength that could raise suspicion.

Boldenone would be great for baseball players if it were not for the facts that a) it is against the rules, b) it is easily detectable, and most importantly, c) it shares the same dangerous side effects as other anabolic steroids. In addition to those side effects, it can make users voraciously hungry, and more dangerously, it can stimulate the release of erythropoietin more than other anabolic steroids. Erythropoietin is better known as EPO, and it is well known in the cycling community. Stimulating it is great for anemic people, but not so much for those who are healthy. The increased production of red blood cells can lead to higher blood pressure and risk of heart attack.

One more important note: It is possible that Paulino was taking something that was far more difficult to detect that happened to be tainted with boldenone. This can happen when a drug is purchased on the black market. The glassware used in the synthesis is not always cleaned well in between reactions. Sometimes an acid wash is necessary to remove any trace amounts of steroids.

It is a shame that Paulino exercised such poor judgement. To be clear, I do not mean that he tainted the sanctity of the game, or any other vapid statements to that effect. The bad decision was to take an easily detectable steroid that has questionable baseball benefits but unquestionable health risks. Because of boldenone’s slow-acting nature, any velocity enhancing effects could have taken a long time to manifest, if at all. The Astros are deep, but now they are down one pitcher who could have been useful for the rest of the year.