Posts Tagged ‘supplement contamination


Bike Pure’s semi-religious (and not in a good way) zealotry

By nature, advocates – both individuals and organizations – have a belief they are undoubtedly sure is unquestionably true, morally justified and they are passionate in its defense.   Generally, that is a good thing.  The world needs advocates on many levels to stand up and make the world a better place.  However, advocacy does have its perils and limitations. The slippery slope for advocates comes when they go from be a defender of their faith to believing they represent judge, jury and executioner.  I deliberately use the word faith to elicit the comparison to religion; any religion can look back on history and see some significant point where that line was crossed by those who believed they were ordained to carry out extremism.

To ensure there is no confusion on my stance in regards to doping and cycling, let me state unequivocally for the record – I want cycling (or any sport) to be clean and if there are rules regarding banned substances, those rules need to be adhered to and appropriate punishments should occur for those caught breaking said rules.  I believe cycling has a long-standing culture of both doping and Omerta that activism is required in order for that culture to change.  Hence the reason an organization like Bike Pure is good in concept to help change the culture of the sport.

However, Bike Pure is an advocate.  Advocates require public opinion on their side.  Unfortunately, cycling’s court of public opinion sometimes has as significant of a voice as the actual authorities; that court is cynical and believes in guilt first.

Myles McCorry of Bike Pure has crossed that line and started down the slippery slope.  At this point, he seems to have anointed himself as cycling’s doping priest, charged by a higher power to condemn, charge with sin and deliver salvation.  Anybody who has been reading my blog knows I believe in Tom Zirbel being a person of high moral character and innocent of deliberately taking synthetic DHEA.  (If you want the litany of reason and logic behind my belief, please read my past posts.)  All parties acknowledge Tom has tested positive for DHEA.  Tom “broke the story” himself.  He’s not denying what happened, he is denying the knowledge and intention.  But Myles doesn’t see it that way.

To quote Myles on his post left on Tom Zirbel’s personal blog, “If when reality bites and you want to come clean, please contact and we will give you a fair ear. Please show respect to your fellow athletes, and begin the repair.” Following the rules of logic, the only conclusion Myles has reached is that Tom is a liar and cheat in his eyes.  Myles has sugar-coated it; advocates don’t garner positive PR via public venom.  Myles (as well as many others) also states “All pros and most amateur cyclists take their training/ food/supplements seriously and know exactly, or find out the contents or everything entering their body.”  Myles also does a spectacular job of quoting the science (whether overstated or not) that makes his argument look better.  In his article on, Myles quotes an industry leader saying DHEA was the “superhormone” when it was released.  Last I checked, any time a new product is released, it generally is the greatest thing ever or a more affordable, advanced second.  Further in the article, it states that the New York Academy of Sciences carried out the “most in depth study” on DHEA.

While visuals are difficult via the web-printed word…I’m now the guy in the back of the room raising my hand and clearing my throat; I’d now like the other side to be heard.

“Athletes have to know what’s going into their body” Yes, they do – within reason. They cannot know everything – it is theoretically impossible.  Argue with me otherwise and then I’ll be forced to go to the ridiculous lengths of explaining every step of the way where contamination of any kind could take place.  To quote the opposing science, there is almost no real QA/QC to ensure any supplement isn’t at risk.  Organizations such as NSF and HFL have shown the need for supplement testing/certification and the current problem of contamination of steroids and prohormones.

Shown below are a number of quotes from the paper titled “Supplements and Banned Substance Contamination: Offering an Informed Choice” written by Drs. David Hall and Catherine Judkins, there is a problem in that “athletes have to know” equation.  (I love it when others do the much more educated writing for me”

“It is clear that all forms of supplementation should be considered as a potential source of a positive drugs test for elite athletes, as a direct result of inadvertent contamination…”

“It is neither possible nor appropriate to test supplements for “everything on the WADA Prohibited List.”

“Also, the most likely source of contamination is from materials inadvertently introduced by the raw material supplier or in manufacture.”

“Those compounds most likely…for example DHEA which is still available over the counter in the US.”

“Research has shown that steroids and stimulants banned by WADA have been found as contaminants within some supplement products.”

“WADA advise elite athletes that they should not take supplements – recommending…a balanced diet will provide…necessary nutrition”

“WADA has effectively banned WADA-accredited labs from offering….effective quality control….to avoid inadvertent contamination”

Additionally, both the IOC/WADA and independent testing bodies have done significant testing that shows how significant the contamination problem is.  For those reading, the information listed below would be the wow factor, punch line, climax…

The IOC/WADA lab in Cologne investigated contamination and purchased 634 standard retail products in 13 different countries – 15% were contaminated with steroids/pro-hormones, 20% of those purchased in the US. (International Journal of Sports Medicine 2004)

HFL tested 58 supplements purchased through standard retail in the USA in 2007 – 25% contained low levels of steroid contamination and 11% contaminated with stimulants.   DHEA was the most common (showed all positives) of the contaminants.  In an HFL Case Study – a major US manufacturer that produced DHEA product alongside other products and wanted to investigate cross contamination.  Every sample, including the men’s room tap water was positive for DHEA.

All acknowledge that DHEA is a legal supplement in the US and those who don’t think incidental contamination from raw materials, manufacturing facilities or other processes is possible is absolutely ignoring the science that doesn’t agree with their standpoint.

I don’t want to go too deep into the science for two reasons. 1) I’m not a scientist. I’m a writer and acknowledge my lack of expertise and 2) DHEA is a naturally occurring substance that does great things naturally within your body.  Unfortunately, those naturally occurring processes many times get ascribed to the supplement…I don’t want to muddy those waters further.  As far as the argument of synthetic, OTC purchased DHEA supplement’s perceived benefits – by this point, it has been clinically proven that there are about none.  It was actually semi-painful to read how far McCorry had to stretch to make some sort of performance-enhancing argument.  It ended up reading like “Tom cheated because he might not have caught a cold because of DHEA.”

However, the Mayo Clinic is pretty good at that science and medicine stuff…to quote from Mayo’s website “a 2006 Mayo Clinic study examined use of DHEA supplements in older adults over two years and found no anti-aging benefits. While DHEA levels went up to the same levels found in younger people in the study participants who took DHEA supplements, there were no differences between those who took DHEA and those who didn’t in body composition, physical performance, insulin sensitivity or quality of life.”

Given all my arguments above, I’ll restate that Bike Pure has an honorable intention, cycling has a long-standing cultural doping problem and I emphatically agree that cycling needs to be a clean sport.  I disagree when advocates, such as I believe Myles McCorry has done in this instance, cross over to blind zealotry.   I’ll step down from my soapbox and wait for the barrage of name-calling and nasty emails.


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