Methylhexaneamine – still a problem in UK sports

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One year ago an athelte died while completing the London Marathon. Subsequently she was found to have used the controversial supplement Jack3d, containing methylhexaneamine (DMAA).   Then in August last year the drug was banned from sale, so why are we still seeing positives now?

As I reported in my blog previously the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) ruled in August 2012 that DMAA met the criteria to be classified as a medicinal product.  My understanding of the regulations suggest that the ban is for the promotion and advertisement of the drug without authority.  This was supposed to restrict the availability of DMMA as a supplement.  This did not amount to a legal ban though, as DMAA is not listed as a controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) or the The Misuse of Drugs Regulations (2001).  This means that while it is illegal to sell DMAA as a dietary supplement it is not illegal to own or take.

On the UK Anti Doping (UKAD) website there are 8 athletes listed as currently suspended (or have been in the last year) having failed tests for DMAA.  Five of the athletes are boxers and three footballers (one each of league, union and association!).  Interestingly the bans imposed range from 5 months to 2 years. This is due to a range of factors, including the intent to enhance performance and attempts to ascertain the contents of the supplement before use.

In Australia DMAA was banned by the Therapeutic Goods Administration in August last year.  The Australian Sports Anti Doping Authority lists three current suspensions from DMAA use, from bodybuilding, rugby league and boxing.  Over in the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued similar guidelines to in the UK, where selling DMAA as a dietary substance is an offence.  In the latest listings on the US Anti Doping Agency website there are three suspensions listed from 2012 but non so far from 20113.  the three from 2012 are from cycling (x2) and track and field.  All of the US athletes received a six month ban and are free to compete again.

So why are we still seeing positives in the UK and overseas now?  Some left over stock being sold off is probably one reason.  Maybe it is because the athletes had stocked up themselves and have gradually been working through it.  A quick scout around the internet did lead me to a couple of sites still listing it as available for purchase within the UK, but strictly listed as a research chemical.  I havent trid to purchase any so I am not sure if it would go through or not.  I have enough from my purchases in January (post ‘ban’) for my research.

What does this tell us?  Sports people are still prepared to gamble with supplements that have not had their ingredients thoroughly tested before hand.  This means both tested for illegal drugs and to their safety.  The case of GW1516 tells us that many sports people are quite happy to ignore health warnings.


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About Dr Tom Bassindale

Dr Tom Bassindale is a forensic scientist, and the founder of We Are Forensic. He is currently the subject lead for chemistry and forensic science at Sheffield Hallam University. He's managed hundreds of forensic toxicology cases, and is an experienced court witness. He has specialist expertise in forensic toxicology and drug testing in sport. And yes... he watches CSI.