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Methylhexanamine: A Banned Substance?

Chemical Structure of Methylhexanamine
Chemical Structure of Methylhexanamine

A few days ago Major League Baseball announced the suspension of six minor league players, which included Astros minor leaguers Jonathan Fixler, Marcos Cabral, and Danny Meszaros.  At the time, the drug in which they tested positive for was left unannounced and led to me to write my initial reactions on the following day's recap.  The next day, the drug's name was released as methylhexanamine and bloggers across the internet did their quick searches and pointed out its main usage as a nasal decongestant and can be used as a stimulant similarly as ephedra. They also pointed to it's use as a PED by five Jamaicans back in 2009. 

Although, it didn't make sense to me that this was the culprit because I had never heard of it and was unsure of the source or how it was administered.  As clack had mentioned in a thread, these athletes take supplements all the time and typically choose to buy the cheaper ones that you can find online or a GNC store than what the ones that MLB sponsors and says are safe.  These products can often be tainted in production as well.  So, naturally I looked it up.  First I went to wikipedia to see if it was a common abused drug and if it had a long history of being a banned substance.  Next, I went to to search their ingredient lists for that compound.  What I found was a forum article that said it was found in a product called Jack3d.  Although, it's not listed on the ingredient label.

In that same article that I wrote, I shared with you my background in Exercise Physiology, which should have indicated my interest and passion in the field of health, fitness, and exercise.  But, I didn't share with you the extent of my interest into the area.  I was your typical college guy over the past several years in the gym lifting weights for over an hour on a nearly daily basis and found myself using supplements like creatine, NO2, and whey protein.  I still do use those supplements to this day because they do help to an extent, although not to the extreme as advertised.  I cannot begin to tell you the hours I have spent online researching different products and comparing similar products to help choose my next purchase.  Consequently, I am familiar with a very wide assortment of supplements.  But, I can't complain, it helped me land a job after college.  I was even good friends with an amateur body builider in college. 

I say all of this to allude to the fact that I know quite a bit about the product.  USP Labs released the pre-workout, NO2 based supplement sometime in 2009 I think and has grown in popularity very quickly.  It has come on to the scene and won users over faster than any other product I've seen in a category that is already established.  It literally has been brought up in social circles as a conversation starter similarly to, "Have you tried the new Jack3d? The muscle pump and focus is the best I've ever had!"  As soon as I saw that, I knew that this is surely the source of at least one of these failed tests.

Being that methylhexanamine isn't on the Jack3d label, I had to figure out what the connection was. Methylhexanamine is a compound found in the plant geranium and that is on the list of ingredients for the supplement.  So, I don't really blame these guys for getting caught, they checked the label for the drug and it's not on there.  Are they really supposed to check the source and other names of every compound?  Shouldn't there be a list of all the known names and sources to help these guys out?  Well, there is a limited list for them!

I received an interesting email yesterday on this matter that really helped shed light on this whole situation.  It was from a guy named Chris Webb in Ohio who covers baseball for his site Buckeye State Baseball and blog The Buckeye Nine, and he found my write-up when he was researching the drug.  He is friends with former Buckeye Zach Hurley, who also failed the drug test because of methylhexanamine, from when he covered him in his Ohio State tenure.  This email further supported my theory that Jack3d was the culprit being that he is saying that is what he took. 

Hurley contacted Webb after the suspension to help get his story out there of the situation in order to not only salvage his own reputation some, but to help prevent the situation again for others.  He provided me with a link of Hurley's audio explanation of the situation.  The sound has a little bit of static as I think it over the phone, but you can hear and understand him clearly.  The key to the matter is that methylhexanamine is not on the list!

An interesting thing about this is the MLB's stance on the matter.  There is not a complete list of all banned substances because there are too many of them to list!  Yes, I understand that these pharmaceutical companies alter the compounds regularly and it is extremely difficult to keep track of them, but can you not update the list regularly or have an internet database that is searchable to help these guys out?  Methylhexanamine has five other names and six chemical compound names! Is the MLB putting all of the responsibility on athletes whom a little over half have any college education, most likely not in the field of chemistry or health?  Sure, they provide them with a list of supplements that are approved, but these guys make little to nothing and are going to purchase cheaper options as long as the ingredients don't match up with the limited list they do have. Weber also provided me with the current MLB banned substance list in a PDF document, which does

That MLB is currently working to resolve the issue of the list but is that quite enough?  Am I putting too much blame on the MLB and not the players themselves?  No, I'm not.  I agree that these guys tested positive for a "banned substance" even though it is not on the list.  But, should they serve a suspension for it because they were not presented with a full list of substances and were not adequately informed of the substance possibilities?  That's a grey area!  I'm still stradling the fence on that one since they are given the window of opportunity to present their supplements of choice to the organization/trainer to make sure they are MLB legal.  But, how open is that window?  Is the organization that open to doing the research to adequately come to that conclusion or do they simply look at the product and say "No, here is a list of approved supplements." 

I think that window is there to serve as a back-up to the MLB so that they can cover their own end of the situation.  Therefore, I think that these guys need to serve their suspension, no matter how un-just it may be.  I don't think that it would be wrong for the MLB if they took each of these suspensions individually and withdrawl the suspension if the Jack3d was used and the opportunity to get them researched by the organization was not given.  Although, this would open up a huge door and a wave of appeals for so many suspensions based on the stance of "it was a supplement."  This would also make the MLB look very weak and probably hurt them in the next MLBPA negotiation, so I don't think that it would happen. 

Were the players wrong for their usage of Jack3d and did they adequately do their research to help prevent this?  Probably not to their fullest capabilities, but probably enough in their mind.  Is the MLB adequately doing their part in educating and helping these young athletes? Not at all!  There is so much more that they could do to help preven this.  Do I still issue my free pass to Danny Meszaros?  You bet I do because if he was using Jack3d, he's no better than I am because I've been planning on buying it as my next pre-workout supplement when I run out of my current one!