11 July 2017

Manufacturer defends supplement that caused reprimand for athlete it sponsors

A South African manufacturer has defended a supplement, after it resulted in a three-month provisional suspension and a reprimand for an athlete it sponsors. Biogen sponsors Extreme Fighting Championship (EFC) fighter Demarte Pena, who was issued with a reprimand and a voiding of his November 16 fight against Irshaad Sayed, after he returned an adverse analytical finding (AAF) for testosterone. As the full South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS) ruling reveals, the AAF was traced back to ‘Testoforte for Stamina’, produced by Biogen.

Pena and his legal team submitted samples of the supplements he had been taking to the Doping Control Laboratory in Bloemfontein for analysis, which found that a sample of the Biogen Testoforte he had been using ‘contained 4-Androstene-3, 17-dione’. However, the SAIDS ruling (PDF below) also mentioned as significant that a first sample of Test Freak – another Biogen product that Pena had been using – revealed the presence of prohibited substances, but a second sample did not. This suggests that there may have been an issue with contamination.

However, Biogen’s statement appears to rule contamination out, blaming Pena’s AAF on a trace finding due to Testoforte’s complex botanical structure. ‘Biogen Sports Supplements are subject to the most comprehensive testing program currently available and not formulated with WADA prohibited substances’, it reads. ‘The product in question, Testoforte, is not a sports supplement and does not form part of Biogen’s sports supplement range. It should be noted that this product is a complex herbal and is designed to support healthy, natural testosterone levels.’

‘We believe that all competitive athletes should only use Informed Sport and Informed Choice tested sports products and avoid complex botanicals’, continues the statement. ‘To this end we have made every effort to inform tested athletes of the potential risks when using complex botanicals via our website, on in-store signage as well as within warnings on product labels. We have now taken the additional measure of adding this warning sticker to Non-Sports Supplements / herbal products and we are in the process of updating these labels.’

‘We have only recently had sight of the results of the testing conducted by the SA doping control Lab at Bloemfontein. It is not unusual for products containing complex botanical materials, especially those designed to support healthy testosterone, to give rise to a trace finding of steroidal precursors such as 1,4-androstadiene-3,17-dione in screening laboratory tests. The product in question was manufactured using strict manufacturing standards and our manufacturer has confirmed that there is no evidence of deviations observed on the batch questioned. We have no reason to believe that this product is unsafe for general consumer use.’

‘However as a precautionary measure we have sent the product for additional confirmatory analysis to one of the world’s leading laboratories in this field, based in the UK. This should shed light on whether the levels indicate the possibility of cross-contamination from an exogenous source or are naturally present as trace findings, not uncommon for a product of this nature and formulation.’

The SAIDS ruling revealed that Pena was paid a monthly retainer to promote the Biogen brand, and was also provided with a ‘monthly allowance’ that he could spend on Biogen products at any outlet of South African pharmacy chain Dischem. Crucially, it appears that SAIDS accepted Pena’s contention that he had received assurances from Biogen that its products were safe to use.

‘Biogen assured the Respondent that their products were safe to use and that they did not contain any substances listed in the WADA List’, reads the ruling. It is understood that the Drug Control Centre at Kings College is now analysing samples of Testoforte sent to it by Biogen.

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