Thorne announced the deal with the seven National Governing Bodies (NGBs) yesterday, which include USRowing and USA Gymnastics. Thorne will become the exclusive nutritional partner of the NGBs, with the deals to take effect in 2016.
Dietary supplements have become something of a bogeyman in the sports world, with a number of both amateur and professional athletes claiming in recent years that their failed drug tests were the result of using supplements that were tainted with banned substances. And while these defenses have usually fallen on deaf ears with the doping authorities, those same authorities have taken a dim view of supplementation, arguing that at best the quality control is insufficient and at worst that in some cases using these products is tantamount to cheating.
Thorne Research CEO Paul Jacobsen said that the new deals will go a long way to making supplementation an approved and fully above board part of these athletes’ regimens.
“We are able to virtually guarantee that if you are using our products and only our products you will not fail a doping test,” Jacobsen told NutraIngredients-USA.
The suspicion of supplements among sports authorities made getting the deal done a difficult row to hoe, Jacobsen said. But he said that the officials of the NGBs saw that it was time to take account of things as they are, rather than continue to adhere to a Nancy-Reaganesque ‘just say no’ stance.
“I think the philosophy that people are taking in these organizations is they know athletes are taking supplements and they need a safe product. This was a very long venture for us to get this done,” Jacobsen said.
Testing, science information
Jacobsen said the partnership goes far beyond just providing an approved list of products that are NSF Certified for Sport, which will number about six at first and expand to about 20. Rather, Thorne will provide a full suite of nutritional advice and testing services as well, including baseline nutritional-level testing through WellnessFX (which Thorne acquired in 2013) educational materials, and risk protection with product liability insurance. In addition, the athletes will have access to reliable health information from the Mayo Clinic, which has been compiled for easy access on the Thorne Research website. The company said this content will help athletes evaluate nutritional supplement usage and better understand nutritional supplement labels, manufacturing, and regulation, all provided by an objective resource. Thorne Research is also embarking on several clinical research studies at the Mayo Clinic, including the effect of nicotinamide riboside on brain health in collegiate football players, the effect of nicotinamide riboside on altitude acclimatization and team cohesion during an ascent of Mt. Kilimanjaro, and a study of the microbiome in elite athletes.
“There is also going to be a customized content portion,” Jacobsen said. “The first portion will focus on how to treat pain naturally. The next one will have a women's’ health aspect with a focus on younger elite athletes.”
Jacobsen said that the deals with the NGBs will only be the start. The work done to lay this foundation is attractive to other sports leagues and governing bodies.
“I think we will spread our wings from the NGBs to pro sports leagues. We’ve already had some of them hitting us up,” he said.