The blame game

image from fingerfood.typepad.com It wasn't all that long ago that Tyler Hamilton was expected to be the next big name in American professional cycling. It wasn't one of those passing-the-torch deals either with Lance Armstrong completing his run and then giving way to Hamilton. Oh no. Hamilton was supposed to be one of those guys who could have challenged Armstrong.

Hamilton could have taken it all away.

But things have a weird way of working out sometimes. Armstrong won seven straight titles at the Tour de France reasonably easily. Hamilton certainly had a hand in some of those victories, first as Lance's top lieutenant for the U.S. Postal teams in the early part of the decade and then as a star-crossed/accident-prone rider for Phonak and finally as a suspended drug cheat.

Yes, sometimes folks take different paths and often the short cut is nothing more than a misnomer.

Certainly the first drug suspension for Hamilton is up for debate even if some of the arguments sound preposterous. Don't let anyone tell you that the anti-doping agencies are as pure as they pretend to be. After all, there's money in the medicine, not the cure, to use a popular phrase.

Nevertheless, in his latest comeback while riding on the domestic scene with Rock Racing, Hamilton tested positive for DHEA, which is an ingredient in some vitamin supplements used to treat depression. Certainly if Hamilton wanted to fight the performance-enhancing properties of an anti-depressant, he likely would have found a sympathetic audience.

But that's not what Hamilton did. Instead, he said that he not only took the supplement with DHEA, but knew it was banned and still did it. In the aftermath, Hamilton didn't win any races nor lead his team to big victories. He simply revealed what he had done.

Then he retired.

No fuss, no muss, no fight. One has to wonder if Hamilton didn't intentionally sabotage himself.

Meanwhile, J.C. Romero of the Phillies also drew a suspension for taking an over-the-counter supplement called 6-OXO Extreme. He tested positive, went through the arbitration and appeals process and lost. That meant 50 games right off the top of the 2009 season for Romero, though he pitched for the team after taking the supplement.

Here's the thing – the makers of 6-OXO Extreme (the same guy who invented drugs for BALCO) labeled the product as legal, which obviously it is. However, after some very rudimentary research it was clear that the supplement raised testosterone levels. I'm no scientist or doctor, but that sounds like a steroid…

Anyway, here's one published report on the effects of 6-OXO:

Also, after a steroid cycle, the compound may be used to shorten the recovery from the testicular suppression that can be the result of the use of steroids.

A recent United States patent application claims an 88% increase in plasma testosterone levels in men, while decreasing estrogen levels by 11%. The subjects took 300mg orally twice a day for four weeks without taking any other drugs or supplements.


Baylor University conducted an eight-week study to determine the effects of 300 mg or 600 mg of 6-OXO in resistance-trained males. Compared to baseline, free testosterone increased by 90% for 300 mg group and 84% for 600 mg group, respectively. Also dihydrotestosterone and the ratio of free testosterone to estradiol increased significantly. This study did not utilize a control group and was funded in part by two producers of commercial 4-AT.


In a warning letter dated July 7, 2006, the FDA argues that marketing of 4-AT (aka, 6-OXO) violates the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and as such products containing it are adulterated by legal definition.


On June 18, 2008, Health Canada issued a warning that 4-AT and 6-OXO had a health risk related to blood clotting and recommended all users immediately cease use.

image from fingerfood.typepad.com Certainly Romero admitted his mistake and apologized. He also took responsibility for using the product though he likely received some bad advice. Shoot, he's a really nice guy who is always ready to answer a question or provide some insight. Plus, Romero's story has remained consistent. He made a (honest) mistake and is paying for it very much like Hamilton. After all, athletes are responsible for what they have in their bodies.

But unlike Hamilton, Romero has filed a suit against the makers of 6-OXO Extreme (as well as the Vitamin Shoppe where he says he bought the supplement) claiming they did not properly label the product to reveal it contained androstenedione.

"Testing positive and being suspended from baseball was one of the most painful experiences in my life and robbed me of the joy of winning the World Series and damaged my reputation in the process," Romero said in a statement. "I purchased an over-the-counter supplement that I was told and believed would not cause me to test positive. These events have hurt me deeply and placed a cloud over my career, accomplishments and family. It is my hope that I can finally start to put this event behind me and protect the interests of others who rely on manufacturers and retailers to be honest about their products. I look forward to rejoining the Phillies and my teammates at the end of my suspension."

So did Romero really know what he was taking? Who knows? But in one sense it kind of seems like one of those cases where someone sues McDonald's because the cheeseburgers caused weight gain.

Maybe Romero didn't know, but that's his fault.

1 thought on “The blame game

  1. Didn’t know about the Romero lawsuit, but I agree with your conclusion. It probably means it was a mistake, but if I were a professional athlete subject to suspensions, I’d be questioning everything I consider taking.

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