Philadelphia Phillies baseball star J.C. Romero brought the steroid scandal into the public eye earlier this year when the pitcher was suspended for 50 games for failing a drug test. Romero had allegedly consumed a tainted product marketed as a dietary supplement.
On hearing his story, Major League Baseball Players Association sent a letter to players warning them that they had lost confidence in the supplements on sale in US stores.
The letter stated: “We have previously told you there is no reason to believe a supplement bought at a US based retail store could cause you to test positive under our Drug Program. That is no longer true.”
So how have steroids found their way into health stores and what can be done to get them removed? Democratic Senator Arlen Specter will be looking for answers to these questions at today’s committee hearing.
Meanwhile, critics of the supplement industry will be calling for tighter regulation while supplement manufacturers will be looking to distance themselves from unscrupulous sellers.
One of the speakers at the hearing is Travis Tygart, the head of the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). His testimony will blame the steroids scandal on weak regulation of the supplements industry.
Tygart says: “The ease with which new supplement products can be introduced to the market means that this proliferation of products containing designer steroids is likely to continue unchecked under the current regulatory scheme.”
Industry representatives disagree and insist that the regulatory framework is strong but that those tasked with enforcing it are too weak to prevent unscrupulous sellers reaching the market.
Loren Israelsen, executive director of United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA), said Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is chronically underfunded and understaffed. As a result, Isrealsen said the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) has never been enforced properly in its 15 year history.
UNPA therefore backs better funding for FDA enforcement programs and promises to work with USADA to seek the tools needed to catch companies that spike products.
Along similar lines Dan Fabricant, acting executive director of the Natural Products Association, called for a coordinated effort between interested parties to enforce the law and catch the criminals.
Talking to NutraIngredients-USA.com, Fabricant said: “These guys are criminals and the only thing they respond to is enforcement.”
Speaking at the hearing today, Fabricant will also be seeking to draw a clear line between a small number of unscrupulous sellers and the legitimate supplements industry.