The Dangers of Supplements and Steroids in Sport

30th March 2016

Of the 60 individuals currently banned by UK Anti-Doping and listed on the UKAD Website 21 of them are Rugby Union Players. The recent case against 19 year old Welsh Rugby Union Player Adam Buttifant which resulted in a two year ban is a classic case of the misuse of anabolic steroids and the danger of purchasing supplements via the internet.

Mr Buttifant had been told when he moved from junior rugby to senior rugby with Bargoed RFC. early in 2015 that he needed to “bulk up”. In April 2015 he overheard a fellow gym user say that he was using a product called M-Sten he looked this up on the internet and found it for sale on Amazon He assumed because it was for sale on Amazon that it was a reputable product. He used it for 21 days but found that he was suffering side effects of anxiety insomnia bloating low mood weight gain hair loss and breast development. He stopped taking the supplement.

About six weeks later in June 2015 he was subject to an out of competition random urine test conducted by UKAD. He said that he had never been given any advice about nutrition the dangers of taking supplements or drug education by his Rugby Club. The analysis of his sample by Kings Collage London found that the sample was positive as it contained an anabolic steroid known as dehydrochlormethyltestosterone (“DT”). This Adverse Analytical Finding would normally  lead to a four year ban.

Mr Buttifants legal team established that DT was not usually a constituent of the supplement M-Sten although M-Sten did say that it contained steroids. So how did DT get in to Mr Buttifants sample? Mr Buttifants solicitor carried out an investigation into mislabelling and contamination of steroid substances. He found several papers showing that this was commonplace and that the manufacturers of M-Sten were identified as being responsible for mislabelling and contamination. In a 2014 survey of 24 products 16 contained different steroids to those listed on the label and one contained no steroids at all. In other words almost 71% were inaccurate. In addition two of the mislabelled products were produced by Pharma Labs the makers of M-Sten.

Attempts to trace Pharma Labs proved unsuccessful leading to a Chinese website that was trying to hide its location and contact details. Similarly the distributor was equally evasive being a Michigan based entity which had taken steps to hide its true owner and was also un-contactable.  What was odd was that M-Sten was labelled as containing a different steroid to the anabolic steroid DT that was found in Mr Buttifant’s positive sample. The tribunal hearing the case came to the conclusion “that the ingestion of DT was probably caused by taking M-Sten”. In other words Mr Buttifant hadn’t fully been aware of what he was taking as DT had not been disclosed in the list of ingredients on the packaging.

Because of this Mr Buttifant escaped a four year ban as he hadn’t intended to take the anabolic steroid DT. However he had intended to take a supplement containing steroids and what was found in his sample was the banned anabolic steroid DT. As the athlete is strictly responsible for what is in his body and his sample had shown the existence of an anabolic steroid he was banned for two years and not four. To an extent he was “lucky”. However he had put himself in danger of harming his health by taking the supplement being a supplement which contained steroids as well an anabolic steroid which was not disclosed. He had also suffered the side effects.

Prior to the hearing he had explained to his mother what he had taken. As a result they made enquiries via the UK Anti-Doping website and found that M-Sten contained proscribed substances and was therefore banned for both in and out of completion use. Mr Buttifant had not bothered to carry out any investigations prior to purchase he had just assumed it was safe to buy because he could buy it on Amazon.

Mr Buttifant has lost his reputation he is branded a cheat he has lost his contract to play rugby he is banned from all sport worldwide he was ordered to pay the costs of the case brought against him. Because his decision to take a supplement containing steroids and because of the mislabelling and contamination he could have lost his life as well… Do you still think that he was lucky?