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Ah, Those Whacky Nutritional Supplements

Mike SteffanosThursday, January 15, 2009
By Mike Steffanos

Do you remember that "innocent" nutritional supplement that caused Phillies reliever J. C. Romero to spend the first 50 games of the season watching?

From BP Unfiltered:

Barely more than a week after Major League Baseball suspended Phillies reliever J.C. Romero for 50 games for using a banned substance, the laboratory that produced the nutritional supplement that the left-hander claimed was tainted and caused him to falsely test positive has been raided by the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Ergopharm's lab, located in Champ, Ill., and owned by chemist Patrick Arnold who was part of the BALCO steroids scandal, was raided by the DEA on Thursday, according to a source with knowledge of the situation who asked not to be identified. Ergopharm produces 6-OXO, which Romero said he purchased at a General Nutrition Center in Cherry Hill, N.J. Romero also said he believed 6-OXO was not banned by MLB.

Romero tested positive twice last season, on Aug. 26 and Sept. 19.

The New England Office of the DEA led the raid and was assisted by local DEA and police. No arrests were made and a document warrant was served.

Ergopharm, in a statement to the Philadelphia Inquirer on Tuesday, said that "a perfectly legal and untainted substance can cause a positive test for a banned or illegal substance."

However, MLB executive vice president and human resources Rob Manfred dismissed the idea that Romero might have tested for a false positive in an interview with MLB.com's Barry Bloom.

I challenge you to read more about this product and come to the conclusion that it's the sort of "nutritional supplement" that any normal person would choose to put into their bodies.

When you read about this product, you can't help but come to the conclusion that it's supposed to be some sort of legal "steroids-light." Blocking estrogen production for "maximum testosterone production" is not the function of what any reasonable person is looking for in their diets. The directions even advocate cycles of 4-8 weeks, similar to the cycles on and off the product of true steroid users.

Romero can proclaim his innocence until the cows come home, but the bottom line was that he was looking for something that did the same thing as steroids do but was legal to use. If I was a Phillies fan I'd be really annoyed with his continued protestations, especially his claim that the product triggered a false positive.

The truth is that Romero and any other ballplayer that takes a product which claims to do what this one does is cheating the spirit of the law, even if he didn't believe he breaking the actual letter of the law. To me, any product that artificially boosts testosterone production is a performance enhancer, period.

The sad truth of the matter is that if you and I were chemists and could produce an undetectable product that boosts testosterone, we'd have ballplayers from all 30 clubs -- including the Mets, don't kid yourself -- lined up around the block looking to buy it from us. There are plenty of guys like Romero who would gladly take any morally dubious substance if they thought it gave them an edge, and the only thing stopping them is the fear of being caught as Romero was.

Romero tells us he's embarrassed -- good, he should be. I just wish he'd stop trying to convince us he's innocent. Maybe he can occupy himself for that 50-game suspension looking for something "legal" to give himself the testosterone boost he craves.

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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