Supplement in spotlight of pitcher's suspension

January 6, 2009 4:39:40 PM PST
Several sports medicine and fitness experts say the suspension of Phillies relief pitcher J.C. Romero brings a new type of supplement to light.

Maurice "Mo" Orlando is the fitness director at Cherry Hill Health and Racquet Club...

He says supplements like 6-OXO Extreme are well-known and used by body builders.

Although 6-OXO Extreme is not a steroid, it acts like a steroid.

"It blocks estrogen so testosterone is able to run free."

Studies done by the manufacturer show the supplement can boost levels of testosterone by 88-percent, an increase, Orlando says that will show on a drug screening test.

"If you find high levels of testosterone, above the normal, you know something's doing it, " he told Action News.

Orlando won't speculate on why J.C. Romero took 6-OXO Extreme.

But he says it allows athletes to train harder and recover quicker without common side effects seen with anabolic steroids.

6-OXO Extreme is legal. It's sold along with hundreds of other supplements.

But unlike medications, most supplements are not FDA-approved.

"Just because it's sold over the counter doesn't mean it's natural, doesn't mean it's healthy and doesn't mean it's safe," says Orlando.

GNC, the store where Romero says he bought the product has released this statement.

It said in part - "GNC only sells products that meet all relevant legal and regulatory standards for the nutritional supplement industry."

The company went on, "We donh't hacve any comment on the MLB's action against J.C. romero nor do we have any proof that the product in question was ac tually purchased at a GNC store.

A statement from Proviant Technologies, the maker of 6-OXO, says, in part "there is nothing in 6-OXO extreme that should make someone test positive for an anabolic steroid."

The Ergopharm (Proviant) website says of 6-OXO Extreme, "We felt that many of our customers desired an even mopre potent testosterone boost than 6-OXO provided, and we had the technology to deliver the product....We undertook the due testing to prove to ourselves that this product had the ability to stimulate testosterone levels beyond even the range of upper normal."

However it also says the labeling of the supplement warns: "Use of this product may be banned by some athletic or government associations."


How Do Performance-Enhancing Supplements Work?

According to Dr. Bruce Sennett, sports medicine chief for the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, says many infamous supplements are in a class called "androstene-dione." These supplements, called "A-T's" are pro-hormones, because they directly boost production of testosterone.

However, Dr. Sennett says 6-OXO Extreme is a newer, different type of supplement called an "androstene-trione." He says it contains enzymes that block another enzyme called aromatase. Aromatase causes testosterone to break down into small amounts of the hormone estrogen. By blocking that process, it blocks estrogen, and keeps testosterone levels in the blood artificially high.

The mechanism is one employed in the new generation of breast cancer drugs. They are classified as 'aromatase inhibitors.'

The maker of 6-OXO Extreme also claims it contains resveratrol, the same substance said to make red wine "heart healthy." Why? Mo Orlando chuckled when we asked.

"It makes your blood flow better...It makes it a little thinner," he told us. "It improves blood flow to the muscles, and helps them make better use of strength hormones."

Dr. Sennett says the tests which tripped up J.C. Romero probably picked up elevated testosterone, but not any residues from the supplement itself.