By Mike Lemaire
Prior to July 28, no players had violated minor league baseball’s drug program by testing positive for the stimulant Methylhexaneamine.
Little more than two weeks later, eight minor leaguers from four levels of the minors had tested positive for the drug and received 50-game suspensions. A pre-workout supplement that baseball recently banned contained stimulants that proved to be the culprit.
Marlins Double-A lefty Daniel Jennings was the first player to have his failed test announced on July 28. Seven others followed in rapid succession, including former big league utility infielder Omar Quintanilla.
According to Major League Baseball spokesman Patrick Courtney, the supplement at the root of a number of these positive tests is “Jack3d”, a supplement made by USP Labs that can be bought over the counter.
The supplement is designed to help give the user more energy before they work out, and the ingredient that plays a big part in that is Methylhexaneamine. Don Catlin, the former director of the UCLA Olympic Analytical Lab, likened the drug’s effects to those of amphetamines and ephedrine, both of which are banned by baseball.
“All stimulants are similar and this one is no different in that it makes you feel like you have had 10 cups of coffee, depending on the dosage,” Catlin said. “Stimulants have been around in baseball for years, but until a few years ago, Methylhexaneamine wasn’t even on the list, and labs weren’t detecting it.”
The substance was patented in 1944 and was used as an inhalant to fight nasal decongestion, but it didn’t became a widely known stimulant until 2006, when Catlin identified the substance in a dietary supplement linked to Patrick Arnold, the Illinois chemist who admitted to providing steroids to BALCO.
Baseball has tried to keep its players aware of the risk with lists of potentially banned substances and supplements. The problem is that, while expansive, the lists are constantly subject to updates because the companies selling these products are constantly rearranging the chemical structures of the substances, allowing them to change the name and make it undetectable to screenings.
On its Website, one of the three major ingredients of “Jack3d” is 1,3-dimethylamylamine. It is essentially the same substance as Methylhexaneamine, but the name change was enough to throw off Athletics outfielder Zach Hurley during his research of the supplement.
A 29th-round pick in June playing for short-season Vancouver, Hurley was shocked when Canadians manager Rick Magnante informed him he had tested positive for Methylhexaneamine and that “Jack3d” is what had triggered it.
“My nutritionist recommended it to me, so I looked it up online and all I could find is that it was the best and newest pre-workout supplement,” Hurley said. “I looked into it, but there was nothing to find because it was so new. I got tested a ton in school while I was taking it and never once failed a drug test. If you aren’t failing the drug tests, it takes any doubt out of your mind that you are walking the thin line.”
Courtney admitted the lists handed out by baseball are often subject to change because of newly discovered supplements, but he also said it is the player’s responsibility to know what he is taking.
“Just because a product is purchased at a reputable store or does not list a prohibited substance on its label does not mean it is safe,” he said, “and if they choose to use supplements they should only use supplements that are NSF Certified for Sport.”
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