A popular and controversial sports supplement widely sold in the USA and other countries is secretly spiked with a chemical similar to methamphetamine that appears to have its origins as an illicit designer recreational drug, according to new tests by scientists in the USA and South Korea.
The test results on samples of Craze, a pre-workout powder made by New York-based Driven Sports and marketed as containing only natural ingredients, raise significant health and regulatory concerns, the researchers said.
The U.S. researchers also said they found the same methamphetamine-like chemical in another supplement, Detonate, which is sold as an all-natural weight loss pill by another company: Gaspari Nutrition.
“These are basically brand-new drugs that are being designed in clandestine laboratories where there’s absolutely no guarantee of quality control,” said Pieter Cohen, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and a co-author of the analysis of Craze samples being published today in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Drug Testing and Analysis.
“It has never been studied in the human body,” Cohen warned. “Yes, it might make you feel better or have you more pumped up in your workout, but the risks you might be putting your body under of heart attack and stroke are completely unknown.”
Craze, which is marketed as giving “unrelenting energy and focus” in workouts, was named 2012’s “New Supplement of the Year” by Bodybuilding.com. A USA TODAY investigation published in July reported on other tests detecting amphetamine-like compounds in Craze.
While Walmart.com and several online retailers have stopped selling Craze in the wake of USA TODAY’s investigation, the product has continued to be sold elsewhere online and in GNC stores. In recent weeks, Driven Sports’ website, which offers Craze for sale, has said the product is out of stock. Detonate is sold by a variety of online retailers.
An attorney for Driven Sports, Marc Ullman, said the company had no comment on the latest findings that the compounds are actually more closely related to methamphetamine.
“We have previously provided USA Today with a plethora of data from a DEA Certified Lab indicating the absence of any amphetamine-like compound in Craze,” Ullman said in an e-mail. “In light of USA Today’s decision to ignore the data we have provided, we respectfully decline to comment for your story.”
Officials at Gaspari Nutrition in Lakewood, N.J., did not respond to interview requests.
Because of the government shutdown, officials with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which oversees dietary supplements, could not be reached for comment. Calls to the Drug Enforcement Administration also weren’t returned.
Cohen said researchers informed the FDA in May about finding the new chemical compound in Craze. The team found the compound — N,alpha-diethylphenylethylamine — has a structure similar to methamphetamine, a powerful, highly addictive, illegal stimulant drug. They believe the new compound is likely less potent than methamphetamine but greater than ephedrine.
“There are suggestions about how it’s tweaked that it should not be as addictive as meth,” Cohen said. But because it hasn’t been studied, he said, its dangers aren’t known. The team said it began testing Craze in response to several failed urine drug tests by athletes who said they had taken Craze.
Driven Sports has issued repeated statements in recent months that Craze does not contain any amphetamine-like compounds, including posting test results on its website that it says prove the product is clean. In July, a USA TODAY investigation revealed that a top Driven Sports official — Matt Cahill — is a convicted felon who has a history of selling risky dietary supplements, including products with ingredients linked to severe liver injury and at least one death. Cahill is currently facing federal charges in California involving his introduction of another supplement, Rebound XT, to the market in 2008 that contained an estrogen-reducing drug, and this spring a grand jury was also investigating, USA TODAY has reported.banned substances > DMAA > illegal > supplements