The verdict by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in the Kurt Foggo doping case in Australia has provided a fresh ray of hope for those charged with adverse analytical findings for stimulant methylhexaneamine (MHA), especially in India.
Foggo, a professional rugby player in Australia was suspended for two years by the National Rugby League for an MHA offence detected in a sample given last September.
He appealed to the CAS, and the court partially upheld his appeal last month and reduced his suspension to six months.
This was the first MHA case that was appealed in the CAS. The decision can have a crucial bearing on similar cases around the world. Twenty-one of them are pending in India.
In a nutshell, Foggo's arguments centred round the fact that he had consumed a supplement named Jack3d and that the supplement had led to the adverse analytical finding.
Normally, this would not have amounted to much of a defence, but he further argued that he and others had made searches on the website of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) in relation to the ingredients of Jack3d, “resulting in no prohibited, specified or related banned substances being identified”.
The panel accepted the argument that Foggo had sought advice from several others concerning the safety of using the supplement and he was able to convince the panel that he did not take it to enhance his performance in the rugby league.
The Jack3d label does not mention methylhexaneamine or 1,3-dimethylpentylamine, the substance that was detected in Foggo's urine sample. It mentions dimethylamylamine (DMAA), one of several synonyms for MHA.
In the Prohibited List issued by the World Anti-Doping Agency (2010), MHA has been given just one synonym, dimethylpentylamine.
Now, to the crucial question that should have come up at the CAS hearing, but which did not. Did the athlete put a search on the internet for Jack3d that would have been the most natural follow-up action to take, especially since the National anti-doping agencies do not give anything about supplements, except a warning, on their websites?
Had such a search been carried out, this is what he would have got from Jack3d.com: “1,3-Dimethylamylamine is also known as Geranamine, Methylhexaneamine, or DMAA.”
Last October, British athlete Rachel Wallader had her suspension reduced from one year to four months on appeal. The arguments were similar to that made in the Foggo case, though the supplement used was one named — Endure.
Wallader also did her “research” on the internet but apparently missed this one on www.muscletalk.co.uk.
A sponsor's message there on Endure begins with this slogan, “Continual Performance Enhancement” and goes on to list the ingredients in the supplement including dimethylamylamine, among others.
A UKAD Global Drug Reference Online search would have resulted in dimethylamylamine being shown as nothing but MHA.
The WADA has not included any more synonyms for MHA in its 2011 list.
The drug is also, however, known at least by the following names: 4-methyl-2-hexanamine, 4-methyl-2-hexylamine, 2-amino-4-methylhexane and 2-Hexanamine, 4-methyl-(9CI), apart from dimethylamylamine and dimethylpentylamine. A Wikipedia search will get you these names.
The athletes cannot be expected to remember all these names, of course. And there lies their defence perhaps.
The Foggo verdict has shown that as long as a drug, referred to in the Prohibited List, is missing from the label of the product, an athlete has a reasonable chance of either getting a reprieve or a reduced sanction.
Two Indian athletes, weightlifter Sanamacha Chanu (second offence) and taekwondo player Jitendra Verma have already been sanctioned eight years and two years respectively for MHA offences.
Some of the early ‘positive' cases for MHA among Indians had rather illogically plumped for the ‘massage oil' or ‘face pack' argument.
They will have a tougher time extricating themselves from the charges when their hearings resume.
Supplements had always looked the best bet. It has now been proved beyond doubt that it is the key to putting up a strong defence.
Incidentally, four Australian athletes are currently serving two-year suspensions for MHA use.