What is methylhexaneamine? We know that it is a banned stimulant in the prohibited list of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). We also know that eight Indian sportspersons including six wrestlers have tested positive for the banned substance just three days ago.

Four of the wrestlers were in the Indian team for the Commonwealth Games; one athlete, Saurabh Vij, is also in the Indian team for the Games.

It is for the first time the National Dope Testing Laboratory (NDTL) has reported the substance, at least in the case of an Indian athlete. The substance was included in the WADA prohibited list from January 1 this year as a “non-specified stimulant.”

Among those serving a two-year suspension for a methylhexaneamine violation at present is a Korean distance runner, Lee Kyeong-Jae, who was reported for the offence in May this year.

The WADA describes methylhexaneamine as a “non-therapeutic substance” in its summary of modifications (from 2009) brought out in the 2010 list.

It may not be completely non-therapeutic since from its discovery in the 1940s, it was used as a nasal decongestant, according to information available on the web.

Sense of disbelief

There has been a sense of disbelief among Indian sports circles since the doping news broke. How come eight of them, training at different places in the North (Patiala, Sonepat and Delhi), tested positive for the same substance? That too for a little-known stimulant that does not get much mention in anti-doping parlance?

There has even been suggestions that the medicine is not available in India and unless there was a well-established illegal route, which should be probed by the authorities if it existed, there could be no way of the drug landing in the hands of the athletes.

Because of its capacity to stimulate the central nervous system (CNS), the drug has also been reported to be an ingredient in “party pills.”

The drug was first reported in the anti-doping domain last year when five Jamaican athletes were found “positive.” Male sprinters Yohan Blake, Marvin Anderson, Allodin Fothergill and Lanceford Spence and woman sprinter Sheri-Ann Brooks were initially reprieved by the hearing panel but on appeal, all except Brooks, were given three-month suspensions.

The WADA brought in the substance in its 2010 list and ruled that it was a “non-specified” stimulant, meaning there would be no concessions for unintended use and such arguments.

It is a surprise that the WADA did not have the drug earlier in its banned list. Back in May, 2006, the Washington Post reported that an Illinois chemist (Patrick Arnold who later underwent a prison term for providing steroids to a number of sportspersons in the BALCO scandal) had been marketing a dietary supplement containing a little-known amphetamine-like substance that was undetectable in drug tests prevalent at that time.

Analysis

The finding followed an analysis by the famous Don Catlin (who discovered the designer steroid, tetrahydrogestrinone, THG), who analysed the product, Ergopharm's Ergolean AMP, as requested by the Post which reimbursed Dr Catlin, who works at the WADA-accredited lab in Los Angeles.

The drug found in the product by Dr Catlin was methylhexaneamine.

Methylhexaneamine, a component of geranium oil, is now the ingredient of a variety of supplements, all easily available on the internet, and, according to sources, in the Indian market also.

In capsule form, the medicine is available as Gernamine and Floradrene, among other names. The synonyms for methylhexaneamine include dimethylpentylamine and dimethylamylamine.

Among its advantages, claimed by the companies, include powerful energy stimulation, increased metabolic rate, triggering of fat release and capacity to reduce weight, apart from ephedrine-like properties and that of general CNS stimulants.

The Illinois chemist (Arnold), according to the Post report, claimed on the Ergopharm Website that AMP gave dieters and athletes an alternative to ephedrine with fewer negative side effects. AMP has “adrenaline properties” and is “the most powerful weight tool you can purchase without a prescription,” Arnold stated on his site back in 2006.

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