Sunday, September 18, 2011

Drug bombshell hits elite Kiwi athletes

The actual story reveals a disappointing lack of drug cartels air-dropping cargos of cocaine from aerial fly-overs and striking a couple of All Blacks:
The International Olympic Committee has dropped a bombshell by confirming a banned drug is included in a product that has been provided to elite Kiwi athletes via the New Zealand Academy of Sport's official sports supplements programme.

The IOC's chief nutritional scientist, British-based professor Ronald Maughan, says the product Thermotone contains a type of amphetamine which the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) identifies as a banned substance.
Note that this is only true for values of 'amphetamine' that include 'a norepinephrine analog used as a neurotransmitter by some invertebrates'. From the perspective of NZ's finest investigative journalists, 'amphetamine' and 'adrenaline' start and finish with the same letters so any difference between them is nugatory.

The background turns out to be a shonky sponsorship deal between the NZ Sports Academy (now SPARC) and the manufacturer of a useless herbal 'sports supplement'. Sports quackery is big business and in return for the Academy's endorsement and the right to stick the "NZ Elite Sports" label on their fraudulent product, the manufacturers provide $$$, plus also free samples which SPARC passes on to our elite athletes to sell to their families and friends.

"Whitewashing the Old House".
L. A. Ring (1908)

So concerns arose that the more credulous sportspeople might be consuming the stuff themselves. SPARC had previously dealt with the concerns by commissioning a whitewash reassuring report that "It's all OK, no harm can be done, for Thermotone© contains no active ingredients". And it is true that clinical tests of octopamine have shown none of the fat-burning weight-loss properties for which Thermotone© is marketed. Indeed, in this toxicology review, the NIH note that if anything, mice fed on the stuff gained weight (not to mention the growth of suckers and four supernumerary limbs).

In practice, the source of the octopamine in Thermotone© is not an extract of cephalopod, nor an oil rendered down from snake tallow, but purportedly dried bitter-orange peel.* "Purportedly" because it is manufactured behind the closed doors of a pharmaceutical factory in Queensland. Not saying that the herbal-health industry lacks integrity but when the company behind Thermotone© feels compelled to call itself "Integria",** one detects a hint of compensation for something.

Not quite sure how a Danish Realist painting ended
up on the cover of an Aldiss novel set in Norfolk

BUT it turns out that octopamine is on the list of substances banned by WAPA ANYWAY. That is, athletes foolish enough to heed the SPARC endorsement could be busted (though before that they would have to win something). Questions are being asked; neither the author of the whitewash report nor those who commissioned it are currently returning calls.

I am not entirely sure why NZ needs a state-sponsored Elite Athletes Program, given the deteriorating public health that generally goes along with emphasis on elite sports.

* As any fule kno, dried bitter-orange peel (Citrus aurantium) also features as an ingredient of Witbier. So if the Frau Doktorin queries the amount of Hoegaarden I am drinking, I will claim it as a fat-burning sports supplement. The downside is the threat of failing a blood test and being stripped of gold medals.

** Integria Healthcare used to be Thompsons, a family firm of herbalists who at least believed sincerely in their worthless products. Then they were bought out by billionaire John Todd who saw a growth opportunity; and if there's one thing Todd has never been accused of, it's excessive sincerity.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

dried bitter-orange peel (Citrus aurantium)

Expect a visit from Citrus Lover demanding an end to this libel.

tigris said...

Is octopamine four times better than dopamine?

Substance McGravitas said...

the NIH note that if anything, mice fed on the stuff gained weight (not to mention the growth of suckers and four supernumerary limbs).

Well duh, limbs aren't made of styrofoam.

How much is this stuff? I could use some extra limbs. For things.

Smut Clyde said...

The original Shock Horror newspaper report, plus the other media passing it on, are all concentrating on one OUTRAGE: our athletes have been exposed to the risk of blood-test-failing, if they listened to the reassurances that the Thermotone samples they receive are placebos with no active ingredient.

No OUTRAGE at all about a sports-promoting govt. agency prostituting themselves to the herbal quackery industry by lending their name to a fraudulent product.

Though to be honest, it is hard to get OUTRAGED by the exploitation of wannabee bodybuilders and athletes. The whole sports-supplement industry would wither and die if more people were reality-based, but no-one is forcing them to pay stupidity taxes.

Citrus Lover said...

We at the Citrus Fashion Association greatly applaud the use of excellent words like "nugatory" and "supernumerary".

We are always concerned about the health of athletes, and we would like to remind New Zealanders of the many healthy ways to be consume citrus fruit. Including, may we suggest, rubbing its fragrant oils on your skin, or wearing the peel like a signal hat. Even athletes need fashion; why not citrus fashion? For the busy New Zealander, athlete or otherwise.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Can I call 'em, or what?


I plucked a puffball mushroom (from the ground, and I thank S.C. for the advice), cooked it up, and ate it.

It was delicious! Said consumption occurred shortly after 7:35 P.M., EST. So if you never see another comment or post...

Smut Clyde said...

Details of the precautions to take with puffballs, to check that they're not something else -- e.g. an unopened amanita -- will follow. Eventually.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I'm going to post photos, sooner of later. (Sooner = like a half hour or so, later = I take a nap instead.)

P.S. I'm sure it was a puffball, the interior was solid white like tofu but much lighter.

Smut Clyde said...

Reassured Smut is reassured.

If the thunder don't get ya then the son of thunder will.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Still not dead yet.

The thing that took longest to put that post up?

Identifying this critter.