Last Updated on March 24, 2013 by Jimson Lee
400-meter gold medalist LaShawn Merritt has accepted a provisional suspension as a result of positive drug tests caused by his use of an over-the-counter male enhancement product that he used intermittently following the completion of the 2009 outdoor track & field season. This over-the-counter male enhancement product contained DHEA and pregnenolone, which caused LaShawn Merritt to test positive on 3 successive tests in October 2009, December 2009, and January 2010. LaShawn Merritt was not notified of any of these positive tests until March 2010, and was made aware only days ago that DHEA was the cause of the positive result. Recent investigation revealed that it was the over-the-counter male enhancement product that contained DHEA.
LaShawn Merritt’s use of this over-the-counter male enhancement product was completely unrelated to athletics, and occurred at a time that he was neither seriously training nor competing. His voluntary acceptance of a provisional suspension means that he has chosen not to compete until the case has been decided. In the interim, he will continue to train hard and take classes towards his degree requirements.
What a shocker! DHEA is sold over the counter!
Even if he gets a two year ban, his suspension will probably be retroactive to October 2009 which means he’ll be back October 2011 and ready for the USA Trials in June 2012. Americans do not run at Commonwealth Games and he’ll miss the 2011 World Championships.
So, what are the effects and benefits of DHEA?
Before I begin, I’ll get back to basics first…
How to Increase Muscle Mass, or Prevent Proteolysis
For those who would like to increase muscle mass, or preventing protein breakdown (otherwise known as proteolysis), I would list the “substances” under the following categories:
- Anabolic effects
- Anti-catabolic effects and anti-estrogenic effects (“catabolic” is the opposite of “anabolic”, and estrogen is the "opposite" of testosterone)
- Amino-Acid and protein supplementation
Anabolic steroids, Androstenedione and Insulin all follow under the “Anabolic Effects”.
These are illegal in sports (except baseball) and on the IAAF list of banned substances. They all exhibit serious side effects during prolonged use.
Anti-Catabolic Effects and Anti-Estrogenic Effects
I’ll need to give a brief lesson on cortisol & corticosteroids.
Corticosteroids are man-made forms of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol plays an important role in the function of almost every part of the body.
Corticosteroid medications have 2 main actions in the body:
- They reduce inflammation
- They decrease the activity of the immune system. A good example is skin cream for eczema.
Hence, corticosteroids are not anabolic steroids per se, but have been known to be abused by some athletes to increase muscle mass, hence, the anti-catabolic effects.
DHEA, or Dehydroepiandrosterone, has been claimed to block cortisol’s catabolic (breakdown) effects on lean muscle tissue.
Because cortisol is a catabolic (tissue breakdown) induced stress hormone, exercise has been shown to significantly raise serum cortisol levels. Thus, DHEA has been shown to block some acute effects of stress induced cortisol release.
Phosphatidyl Serine complex is another product that follows under the same category. PS Complex (as it is widely known) is reported to "protect from cortisol which is catabolic to muscles" as printed on one popular label.
There are many others supplements in this category, but are also on the IAAF list of banned substances.
Amino-Acid and Protein supplementation
Protein powders, Amino Acids, Creatine and ZMA are topics already covered at lengths on this Blog. Use the search box to find out more.
Andy Cano says
I am at a loss here. If he took the substances during the off-season and they were totally unrelated to his 400 meter athletic performances, Why would he agree to any suspension? I will make one observation. Perhaps performance boosting substances could explain his remarkable stamina displayed in the last 100 meter segments of his races. The overwhelming majority of 400 meter runners cannot run the last 100 meter segment in such a machine-like form. The only ones that come to mind were Michael Johnson, Butch Reynolds, and Lee Evans.
Jimson Lee says
something just doesn’t smell right. Justin Gatlin accepted a ban without a fight. Now this. Obviously he knows it may get reduced in time for the 2011 Word Champs. But for sure back for 2012 London.
The 400 will be less of a drawing card this year, and while JW may win the 400m, he won’t earn as much without the presence of LM.
Harri Heimonen says
It is getting too scientific. And especially re track&field people.But I guess that is the modern world.
Harri Heimonen says
Ohuruogu missed 3 tests and got a ban,she was never proven to have taken anything, she only missed the tests, but ok, thrice(!),she returned and won world champs and then in Beijing.The question mark over her is still there.How many Eastern Europeans can you recall who were caught and then came back like nothing had happened and just keep on going. I cannot count so far. LaShawn seems to accept that he’s done a wrong thing, but did he know that the stuff he took was forbidden. How can you know?
Harri Heimonen says
Maybe they all should take this: *
Pregnenolone 50mg x 60
The brain and memory enhancer $9.95 Free Library and Weekly Newsletter
Philippe Neron says
DHEA is a prohibited under the World Anti-Doping Code of the World Anti-Doping Agency, In Canada, a prescription is required to buy DHEA
I meant that maybe they should take something so they that they will remember what they are supposed to do.
It is sad that a young healthy male needs to take a male enhancement product.
I think his rep with the ladies just took a dive. This is more funny then sad.
Jim Hiserman says
The bottom line is that under IAAF rules all athletes are responsible for whatever goes into their bodies regardless of lack of knowledge as to what might be in a supplement. It is their responsibility to research products before taking them.
Harri Heimonen says
I agree with you Jim. You are absolutely right.I do not joke about sprinting. What I am suggesting,taking into consideration my lack of knowledge about Baseball’s, Am Football’s etc doping control/enforcement, to me track and field athletes are treated worse than the previous category.
Harri Heimonen says
Like said, I never joke about sprinting, so I’m only saying this because I’m a JW-fan; so it will be very interesting to see LaShawn in his tights on track to observe his male enhancement progress. I consider this quite interesting on any enhancement perspective, and I wish LaShawn all the best in the future. And if you want to think some positive about all this: isn’t it jolly good he is not a pre-Fosbury-era high jumper.
I haven’t been to meets for ages, but this really makes me want to go, maybe to Zurich. TV pics aren’t the same as seeing enhancement from the stands. But then again, TV gives you close-ups, and in slow-motion.
I can’t wait, to be honest.
Blaine Rideout says
No one wants to point out the simple fact that athletes use DHEA to counter the loss of libido and the lethargy that occur with the use of some of the stronger anabolics. Weightlifters and such are having a real laugh over people believing Merritt was taking DHEA solely for male enhancement. I would hope that he wasn’t using it to counter and cover much stronger drugs, but I also have little faith in US track officials really going after him if he cheated unless too much hidden info is somehow released to the public.
People should take a look at pics of Merritt from ’05 or ’06, and then look at the abrupt change in his upper body after that. There had been a lot of talk behind the scenes, and you have to wonder. I guess we’ll just have to see what happens with officials. Other athletes like Wariner etc. can’t be bothered worrying about it. There’s always going to be some new guy coming along anyway.
Next up on the 400m scene: Tyson Gay.
As has been said, all athletes are responsible for knowing what the banned substances are. My opinion is they should eradicate all records, medals etc of any athlete being caught, ban them for life, plus fine them, say USD 1.000.000 as I believe it would at least make them think twice before using.
Second, national committees should not be solely responsible for either conducting the tests or selecting the punishments.
Third, they can do what body building practices, let any and all drugs be legal, as it levels out the playing field. Create a SEPARATE world championship for athletes using performance enhancing drugs. Let’s see how many followers that sport would have.
I feel cheated every time runners who obviously are clean get beaten by athletes who could potentially be using performance enhancing drugs. It makes me lose interest.
I remember watching Michael Johnson running a meet some time after the ’96 Olympics. He was close to TWO seconds slower in the 200. He apologized to the audience for his poor showing. I’ve competed myself at a very humble level, and I can say that even for me 2 seconds slower in the 200 would be unheard of unless I had been injured.
Jimson Lee says
@David, I think the Olympics will be open to drugs one day, just like the Prohibition in America during 1919 to 1933. You have to look back today and laugh that prohibition actually existed.
That “day” might be 20 years or 50 years from now.