Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Banned Swimmer Wins Case Over Supplements

Banned Swimmer Wins Case Over Supplements
By BEN FOX, Associated Press Writer
Sat May 14, 3:11 AM

SANTA ANA, Calif. - A swimmer who claimed a contaminated vitamin caused him to test positive for steroids, costing him a shot at the 2004 Olympics, has won $578,635 in a lawsuit against a maker of dietary supplements.

A California jury found that a multivitamin taken by Kicker Vencill was contaminated with steroid precursors and was responsible for his positive test. The jury ordered Ultimate Nutrition of Farmington, Conn., to pay the damages.

The verdict came Wednesday after a three-week trial. Vencill, 26, has already served nearly all of his two-year suspension from competition.

"Who would think that a multivitamin is contaminated? But it was and we proved it," he said Friday. "Now I can move along with my life and swim with a clear conscience."

In January 2003, Vencill tested positive for the banned substance 19-norandrosterone. He denied any wrongdoing and sent his supplements to a private lab, which found that the multivitamin Super Complete contained the material.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency suspended him from competition for four years. Vencill appealed, and the punishment was cut to two years.

Among other things, the suspension prevented him from competing in the 2003 Pan-American Games and cost him a shot at the 2004 Olympics.

"I paid for it. I paid for it dearly," he said.

A lawyer for Ultimate Nutrition did not immediately return a call. The company also did not respond to messages left at its corporate office.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has cautioned about supplements in the past, and its latest guide warns specifically that vitamins and other such products can lead to a positive test.

"The regulations that oversee the nutritional industry and requirements for quality control are minimal and there is no guarantee that the product contents are as advertised," it states.

In Vencill's case, the contamination entered either through the vitamin's raw ingredients or from equipment used to produce the capsules, his lawyer said.

Travis T. Tygart, general counsel for the Anti-Doping Agency, said Vencill shares some blame because the swimmer "completely disregarded" warnings about the potential dangers of nutritional supplements. Still, he called the verdict "a good decision not just for athletes but for consumers."

"It hopefully will hold companies accountable to ensure that their products contain what they say they contain," said Tygart, who testified at the trial.

Vencill's suspension ends this month, and he intends to compete in the 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle at the May 27-29 Speedo Grand Challenge in Irvine.

He said he will return to competition without supplements. "You can't be sure what you're buying. To me it's not worth it," he said.

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