News Flash for November 21, 2002
Edited by Jeff Jones
Moninger set to become another tainted supplement victim
By Jeff Jones
US cyclist Scott Moninger (Mercury) is expected to be declared positive by the US Anti-Doping Association after traces of the drug 19-norandrosterone (a nandrolone precursor) were found in his system at the Saturn Classic in August, 2002. Moninger himself confirmed this via a widely circulated email prior to the expected USADA announcement (see below).
Like many cyclists, Moninger believes that the drug found its way into his system via a contaminated food supplement. As this excuse is so widely used by athletes to explain nandrolone positives, anti-drug agencies such as the USADA no longer accept it, even if it can be proved that the supplement is contaminated.
Moninger explains that he did have the supplement tested: "The lab results confirmed what I had suspected. Each 500mg capsule of the legal amino acid supplement (L-Tyrosine) was contaminated with an average of 28mg of 19-norandrosterone. This is more than a slight contamination but rather a gross one."
As a first offender, Moninger now faces a ban of up to two years, which for the 36 year old could mean the end of his career. With his lawyer, he intends to "fight it with everything we have" and perhaps come away with a six month sentence. In addition, "...we plan to take legal action against the manufacturer, the supplier, and the retailer of this contaminated product."
The lack of regulation in the sports supplement industry means that manufacturers can practically get away with selling tainted products, as the emphasis is "Buyer Beware". A study conducted by the Medical Commission of the International Olympic Committee in April on 634 sports supplements revealed that an incredible 94 samples (14.8%) contained unlisted substances that would lead to a positive doping test.
"Out of these 94 samples, 23 contained precursors (building blocks) of both nandrolone and testosterone, 64 contained precursors of testosterone alone and 7 contained precursors of nandrolone alone," the report said.
In terms of a country based analysis, the USA came fourth on the list with 18.8% 'positives' behind the Netherlands (25.8%), Austria (22.7%), and the UK (18.9%). In effect, this means that an athlete buying a random sports supplement from one of these countries has between a 1 in 5 and 1 in 4 chance of ingesting a banned substance.
Food supplement test results
Country No. tested No.'positive' % 'positive' Netherlands 31 8 25.80% Austria 22 5 22.70% UK 37 7 18.90% USA 240 45 18.80% Italy 35 5 14.30% Spain 29 4 13.80% Germany 129 15 11.60% Belgium 30 2 6.70% France 30 2 6.70% Norway 30 1 3.30% Switzerland 13 - - Sweden 6 - - Hungary 2 - - Total 634 94 14.80% *'Positive' means number/% of supplements containing banned substances Source: IOC
"At the athlete's risk"
The USADA's Rich Wanninger told Cyclingnews that they issue a warning to all athletes who take dietary supplements. "Many dietary supplements, which are sold over the counter or through the Internet, contain doping substances that are prohibited by the Olympic Movement Anti-Doping Code and the anti-doping rules of the International Federations and United States NGBs. These prohibited substances include steroid precursors like DHEA, androstenedione, androstenediol, norandrostenedione and norandrostenediol and stimulants like ephedrine (ephedra), pseudoephedrine, Ma Huang and Guarana."
"While prohibited substances should be identified on the labels of dietary supplement products, that is not always the case. Because government regulation of dietary supplements is lax and manufacturing processes in the industry are uneven, some dietary supplements have been found to contain prohibited substances, which are not disclosed. Studies have shown that even minute traces of contamination of a dietary supplement with a prohibited substance like norandrostenedione can result in a positive doping test. Because anti-doping rules make the presence of a prohibited substance in an athlete's urine a doping offense regardless of how the substance got there, any athlete who takes a dietary supplement does so at his or her own risk."
Many athletes have asked for a list of contaminated products to be made available, so that they can be avoided. In response to this, Wanninger said that, "There is no list of tainted or non-tainted dietary supplements. Due to the manufacturing regulations, the same product made a two separate time could be different; one having contaminated substances, and the other clean."
Given the number of 'tainted supplement' cases over the years, it seems that the best way to avoid testing positive by such a means is to not take sports supplements. The industry may then take notice and impose tighter controls on the manufacturers.
Scott Moninger's original email
Dear friends, family, and fellow cyclists,
On or around the 22nd of November, certain information regarding myself will become public. It will not be good news but I thought that hearing my side of the story first, might lessen the shock a little when you do read this, or hear about it in a few days. Some of what you will read in the media and hear on the streets will be accurate, and some of it will not. I can assure you however, that everything written HERE in this e-mail is 100% fact.
In early July I began preparing for one of the biggest one-day events that I compete in each yr, The Saturn Cycling Classic. This is a 150mi. race that begins in Boulder, CO. and finishes in Breckenridge, CO. The winner receives a Saturn SUV car. I won the inaugural event in 2000 and have been considered one of the pre-race favorites every since. In the weeks leading up to the event, I was putting in countless 5-7 hr. training rides in the high mountain near where I live, to get ready for the challenge. Such hard training has to be followed up with good recovery otherwise the gains are not fully achieved. Recovery is a pretty wide spectrum: Things like massage, sleep, the right foods/drinks, as well as vitamin supplements are all very important. Multi vitamins, minerals, iron, protein powders, and amino acids have always been a part of my daily training/recovery regime.
About one month prior to the event I ran out of an amino acid supplement that I had been taking. I went to the Vitamin Cottage, which is health food/vitamin store, to purchase more. This store is a chain of reputable, organic food/vitamin stores that has been in business for over 50 years, located throughout Colorado and Washington State. I've always felt confident about their products as they have an excellent reputation. This day, they were out of the amino acid brand that I normally buy so I looked around and found one that had all the similar numbers and amounts, I purchased it and was on my way.
Race day came and went: My teammate Chris Wherry had an excellent day and won the event. I finished 3rd. I was very content with my result and very happy for Chris. Immediately after the race, I went to medical control ("drug control") to give a urine sample, which is standard for a race of this caliber and was certainly no surprise as it was listing in the race program weeks prior to the event, that the top 3 finishers plus a few "random's" would be required to be tested, post-race.
About three weeks later I was informed that my "A" sample of urine tested, at that event, showed traces of a banned substance called: 19-norandrosterone. When I first heard this I thought, "this is not possible, there's been a mix-up or something." I do not take or have ever taken 19-norandrosterone, nor have I ever taken a banned substance of any kind in my 21 year career.
In general, drug tests don't lie so after further research and having the test results checked out by a number of different sources, it became quite clear that the positive drug test was likely caused by a contaminated/tainted supplement which contained this particular banned substance.
The amounts that appeared in my sample were consistent with those of a contaminated supplement, and not from someone who was purposely taking the substance as a performance enhancer. Most likely, there was not enough to actually give me any benefit at all but enough to throw up a flag on the test.
For my own peace of mind, I needed to know for sure how this stuff got into my system. I took what remained of this particular amino acid supplement, along with a few others and shipped them off to a lab to be tested for contamination. This is a very expensive procedure and one that uses a majority of the contents so having this done prior to taking it, is just not feasible.
I've now learned that apparently, contamination is quite common in amino acid supplements, which are often produced in the same factories or even with the same machinery as the supplements which are known to be banned. The banned stuff is apparently bought by those who are either not tested in their competitions or are not concerned with destroying their bodies. In my 21 yr. career I have been tested literally hundreds of times around the world, both in and out of competition and always with the same results...negative. I have always had the reputation as a "clean" rider and as someone who has nothing to hide. All of this is particularly difficult for me because I've always been against drugs in cycling and I've voiced my opinion numerous times on the topic.
When I'm asked why I don't race more in Europe, it's because I don't do drugs and I don't want to be forced to do drugs. I don't like cheaters and I don't have any respect for an athlete who thinks they have to take drugs to win. I did not get into this sport to destroy my body. Anyone who's ever competed with or against me knows how strongly I feel about the subject of drugs in sports and they know how much I value my own health and well-being.
The lab results confirmed what I had suspected. Each 500mg.capsule of the legal amino acid supplement (L-Tyrosine) was contaminated with an average of 28mg. of 19-norandrosterone. This is more than a slight contamination but rather a gross one.
I now had the peace of mind that I was searching for but unfortunately, the drug testing agency does not consider a contaminated supplement as a valid excuse for a positive test. An athlete could knowingly take a contaminated supplement and then always have that as an "out" or defense. To the drug testing agency it's very black and white...A positive is a positive regardless of how it came about, knowingly, or unknowingly. With intent, or without intent, the penalties are the same. They are aware of the growing problem of contaminated or mis-marked legal supplements but are unwilling to make any allowances in the matter.
For a first offender, like myself, the maximum sanction for a 19-norandrosterone positive test is a two year suspension. With the help of my lawyer, we are fighting this with everything we have. We did not accept the initial sanction of two years and have requested a hearing, which is allowed by the drug testing agency. We will plead our case as best we can but the testing agency is not in the business of leniency. They are in the business of prosecuting what they feel to be guilty athletes. At this point there is zero chance of this going away completely and probably the best case scenario is a reduced sentence of 6 months. This will happen only with the help and recommendation of USA cycling and the UCI, which are both completely separate from the drug testing agency.
What the future holds: After first learning of my positive test, I returned to the same store and purchased every bottle they had of this L-Tyrosine amino acid. In all I found four that had the same lot and serial numbers as my original bottle. These are still completely sealed and unopened. They will be invaluable as I/we plan to take legal action against the manufacturer, the supplier, and the retailer of this contaminated product.
Prior to all of this, I had planned to compete for 1-2 more years. (Yes, I know I've been saying that for the last ten years but I really don't plan to be a professional cyclist when I'm 40!) My team is being slightly "downsized" at the moment, but I had a spot on its roster for the 2003 season. The management of the team has been very understanding and supportive of my situation and will continue to stand behind me in hopes that things proceed in a favorable direction for me.
I apologize for the delay in making this announcement to all of you but I know how rumors can spread in cycling especially when this is the subject matter. I've also waited as long as possible in making this announcement in hopes of having all the answers to the questions I will be asked. Unfortunately, that is still not the case as the hearing with the testing agency has not yet happened nor do I know yet, what sort of sanction, if any, the UCI has decided on.
Thank you for reading and at the risk of seeming presumptuous, I thank you all, in advance for your support.
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2002)