Don’t amend DSHEA, amend attitudes, says industry

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Regulation

Industry has defended DSHEA against a “fails to regulate” attack made by the head of the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) amid an investigation into products containing steroids being distributed to high school children.

USADA head, Travis Tygart, said tighter controls were needed around products that may contain steroids and pointed an accusatory finger at DSHEA for allowing the situation to occur, but industry said the 1994 Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act (DSHEA) was doing a good job of regulating a diverse industry.

No regulation was capable of 100 per cent control over all activity, said Daniel Fabricant, PhD, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the Washington DC-based, Natural Products Association.

Mend your own fences

“With respect to USADA's thinking, they're obviously taking their cues from organizations like Major League Baseball, and rather than mend their own fences due to their own problems with doping scandals and a failure to develop tougher testing regimes, its much easier to point to the supplement industry as a scapegoat, just like these organizations' athletes do,”​ Fabricant told “I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree after all.”

Kenn Israel, the vice president of marketing at California-based Robinson Pharma, said the presence of a few “outliers”​ did not mean the regulation was failing to do its job.

“DSHEA is not the problem. It is the solution,”​ he observed. “We have the simple and predictable issue of a few outliers (read criminals) acting in a greedy and unsafe manner​. In almost every market there will be fraud, cheating, and unsafe and unethical actors. DSHEA is precisely the correct mechanism to outlaw and prosecute such behavior.”

He added: “USADA should be celebrating a system that provided early signaling in the form of AER regulations, and empowered FDA to enforce criminal statues based on DSHEA.”

No widespread issue

Fabricant noted the NPA had randomly tested many products such as protein powders and creatine for the presence of steroids and found there was no widespread issue with stimulant and steroid contamination in such products.

“Thus, this is a very tightly regulated industry, and this was the case of an outlier adding what amounts to an unapproved drug to a product which is already a violation of the law.”

Fabricant said there would always be rogues that operated beyond the law in any business and pointed to the widespread safe use of dietary supplements by many Olympians as evidence of a well-regulated industry.

“It is time to realize that just like competitive sports unfortunately there are outliers that break the law and just as in sports while they may temporarily taint the sport, the champions that play in an ethical and responsible manner will always rise above,” ​he said.

“Instead of castigating the industry, Mr Tygart should look to communicate with the industry so he is better versed on what the industry is and what it isn't.”

USADA investigation

The USADA investigation, part of a Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) probe, alleges some contaminated products have been distributed out of Max Muscle stores.

The home of Maurice Sandoval, former chief executive officer of American Cellular Labs, has been raided, in relation to the steroid products that have become popular with high school football players.

“The current regulatory system for dietary supplements allows these unscrupulous steroid salesmen to endanger the health of our youth,” ​Tygart said.

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