In this episode of the ATP Project, Matt and Steve interview Oliver Catlin – the president and Co-founder of the ‘Banned Substances Control Group’ (BSCG). Oliver has been working in the sports anti-doping field for over 15 years, working specifically with athletes and brands on supplement research and testing. Oliver Catlin is also the son of Don H. Catlin, who you may recognize the name from the Netflix special, ‘Icarus’. The two of them are unrivaled in their knowledge and experience; it was a pleasure to interview Oliver and hear him share his expertise and passion!
Jeff: Good day guys, Jeff and Matt from ATP Science. We’ve got a personalized health summit that we’re doing at the Gold Coast Convention Center on November 2nd and 3rd. Matt, what is your personalized health summit all about?
Matt: Well, basically what we’re gonna do is we’re going to help you find out where you’re at. We’ll go through your symptom picture questionnaire, find out what your particular health priorities are, and then over a couple of days we’ve got some great guest speakers coming from everywhere all over Australia and the world. We’ve got Rich Kreider coming over, the expert on creatine.
Jeff: Head of the ISSN?
Matt: Yeah. He’s the head of the International Society of Sports Nutrition and works with Texas University, man in the NFL and the American Military, those sorts of people, so some great knowledge.
Jeff: Grandfather of kreatin actually, one of the-
Matt: Yeah, pretty much.
Jeff: And he’s a smart, smart guy.
Matt: Yeah. Simon Hill from Plant Proof.
Jeff: Excellent. We had them on the podcast.
Matt: Sophie Venn, [Kemp Empendon 00:00:51], we’ve got James Newberry, Carrie Saunders.
Jeff: Don’t forget, we’ve also got Alice [Melambedus 00:00:57].
Matt: [Ken Wear 00:00:58]. I mean, he’s capable of getting people out of wheelchairs, and probably worth a mentioned.
Jeff: So, it’s really going to be something that’s a bit special. And you’re going to be able to follow on with your own questionnaire, so that when you’re listening to the information, you’re going to be able to effectively help to diagnose your issues or your areas and things that you want to be able to work on. And at the end, we’re going to get all of these guys together with a big panel for a massive Q&A section. You’re going to be able to break out into electives and ask questions and learn specifically about different areas that these guys are experts in. So, it’s something pretty different, pretty exciting. And yeah, we’re looking forward to it.
Matt: Yeah, I can’t wait.
Jeff: Yeah. All right. Well, jump online to atphealthsummit.com. It’s atphealthsummit.com where you can actually learn more. So, Matt-
Matt: That’s right. We’ll see you’re there November 2nd and 3rd.
Female: Welcome to the ATP Project.
Female: Delivering the irreverent truth about health, aging, performance, and looking good.
Female: If you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired, ready to perform at your best…
Female: … or somewhere in between…
Female: … then sit back, relax and open your mind as Jeff and Matt battle the status quo and discuss everything health related that can make you get up.
Jeff: As always, this information is not designed to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any condition and is for information purposes only. Please discuss any information in this podcast with your healthcare professional before making any changes to your current lifestyle. Stay tuned. The ATP Project is about to start.
Steve: Welcome to the ATP project. You’re with your host Matt, Steve, and with the magic of science and technology, we’ve got Oliver Catlin all the way from the US of A. Say hello Oliver.
Oliver: How are you all? Thanks for having me gentlemen.
Steve: That is wonderful. And today we’re going to be talking about drugs.
Matt: Yeah. Not like last time they said we were going to do a podcast on drugs. It was a really weird podcast.
Steve: I know. I did come in with a funny cigarette and everything, and then I got to hold off. It was a bit weird. I thought we were going to do it on drugs, but-
Matt: I mean, we’re on drugs.
Steve: Yeah. But today we’re going to be talking about-
Oliver: Let me see some drugs and sport in this conversation.
Matt: Exactly. Yeah.
Steve: That’s all right.
Matt: That’s really heavy.
Steve: But, we do have a sporting competition here in Nimbin, which is a famous town in Australia called the MardiGrass, and they do do drug testing there and you have to be positive for cannabis to enter. It’s a bit of a joke, but that’s the honest thing is Northern New South Wales, it’s called the MardiGrass events.
Matt: Really Steven, how did you go?
Steve: Yeah, I did pretty well in that. No, I don’t do any of that stuff. But, there are some athletes who do do some stuff to get ahead in their performance that day.
Matt: I so do. But, hey, let’s introduce everyone to Oliver. So, let everyone know. Now, Oliver, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Because, the reason why I wanted you on the show is, because I love the history of science and I love the history of discoveries and I love to know that we’re kind of right in amongst everything and have a good understanding of why we do what we do. Now, when it comes to drugs in sport, and when it comes for testing these sorts of things, you’ve got a decent history there and you kind of know a lot about the landscape enough for us to talk about the gray area and not just repeat the black and white statements. So, tell us a little bit about your history in regards to drugs.
Oliver: Yeah. My pleasure. And I leave kind of an interesting history. I was afforded the opportunity to be the son of the guru of sport drug testing in the US, my father, Dr. Don Catlin. So, he’s been doing in the dietary world, he’s been doing drug testing in sports since 1982. And so, he did the Olympic drug testing in 1984 for the Olympic games in Los Angeles. He did the ones also in Atlanta, Salt Lake. And he really built the sport drug testing industry in the US, not only doing the Olympic testing, but testing for NCAA, NFL, for… He got the help to start the Minor League Baseball drug testing program.
So, we’re really right in the middle of sport drug testing in the US. I got to go to my first Olympic games in 1984, and I’ve been to a lot of them since as a result of his work for the IOC medical commission. So, some people grow up in a family, firemen and police officers. I grew up under the guru of drug testing in sport. And I’m pretty proud to follow in his footsteps and apply part of that trade take to protecting dietary supplements and athletes and so forth today through BSCG. So, today I’m the president of BSCG, and that’s our seal, that’s our brand. And we’re out there certifying supplements and protecting athletes from banned substances and other quality issues in the process.
Matt: So, that’s the banned substances control group?
Oliver: That’s the one. BSCG for short. Nobody can say it right. Can you say BSCG? Had you got it?
Matt: I prefer Bisigaga. But, no. How old were you when you started working in it yourself then? So, you’ve always been interested, but did… Yeah, pretty much finished high school and… You were straight into the science of testing?
Oliver: No, I did some other things first. I did some financial analysis, worked for Vail Resorts, playing in the mountains for a couple of years. [crosstalk 00:06:41] there. But, I’ve been doing this now for 15 years. So, I’ve been doing it long enough. And I cut my teeth first as the administrator at the actual UCLA Olympic laboratory, [crosstalk 00:06:57] drug testing and worked there for three years before really focusing and turning my attention on dietary supplement certification and hurling off profit of this. So, I’ve been in it for 15 years and it’s a fascinating industry. I mean, I’ve learned daily and there’s never a dull moment.
Matt: And the testing itself, I mean, the substances of course have changed over the times. And we’ll talk a little bit more about some of the substances that people would be using. But the testing, the technology and the testing must have changed significantly. I mean, the sort of testing your dad was doing, it’d be very different to what you’re doing now, wouldn’t it?
Oliver: Oh, absolutely. I mean, it’s been years in the making to get to the point we are today in sport drug testing, which is incredibly advanced these days. We’re finding parts per trillion of drugs in urine samples. And back in those dark ages when, when we were just getting started, they were struggling to find even low parts per million quantities. So, the testing has really improved, the equipment has improved. And that’s helped us fill a lot of the holes and deal with a lot of the problem substances along the way. So, it’s [crosstalk 00:08:12] watch that and see it develop.
Steve: Great. Now, just to give you some context of people listening, parts per trillion. One part per million, is one part in a million. One part per billion, is one part in a thousand million. One part per trillion is a millionth of a millionth part in the urine. Just to give someone some maths around that. So, that’s incredibly sensitive.
Oliver: I mean, I speak about these numbers every day like it’s my business, and it is, but we’re literally talking about parts per trillion amounts. A grain of sand in Olympic swimming pool that you wouldn’t see, or less. And that’s what we’re required to find to professional level Olympic quality sport drug testing to test the athletes. But when it comes to supplements, we’ve got to be just as good to look for contaminants and supplements as well. So, it’s amazing the science and the breadth of it, and the scientists that do it. It really is a labor of love. The anti-doping scientists, the committed people out there that are doing the work, it’s a tough industry and it’s really great to have them out there building those methods and keeping sport things.
Matt: Now, when are you talking about such minute concentrations, have you ever… I mean, I know you would have, but how does that relate to naturally occurring? Because I’m pretty sure a lot of athletes out there will be drinking milk and that sort of stuff, and I don’t know, there’s hormones and that sort of stuff in milk and in the meats and that sort of stuff. Are we talking to sometimes the same levels that you might find in milk or something? Does that make it a banned substance? Is there a cutoff level?
Oliver: You’re talking about a very interesting area with milk it turns out, yes. And whey protein or probably one of the world’s most popular supplement ingredients comes from milk.
Oliver: So does colostrum, yes. And so, the interesting part about hormones in milk is there’s one small little hormone that’s pretty prevalent in milk. It’s called IGF-1, yeah? And IGF-1 is a banned substance in sport. So, it’s kind of the perfect example of how to deal with that reality. There are naturally present banned substances in sport in things as benign as milk, whey protein. So, figuring out how much of a banned substance is of significance to an athlete, and in what type or in what form, is pretty important, okay?
Oliver: So, let’s talk whey protein. Well, whey protein and colostrum, because I think those two are actually fairly similar ingredients. But, if you look at the World Anti-Doping Agency, the World Anti-Doping Agency in their FAQs has some cautionary statements about Colostrum, okay? Because, it contains IGF-1. The NCAA, our college system here in the States, actually lists colostrum as an example of a banned substance, in parentheses after IGF-1. They also list Deer Antler, which I know is popular in New Zealand and other places. It’s one of the places it came from. So, there’s a lot to think about in that area. If you’ve got the World Anti-Doping Agency cautioning you about using colostrum, where’s that same caution on whey protein? And, what is the real issue?
Well, the caution in this case comes from IGF-1 being part of the detection method for human growth hormone. Okay? And we use it as a biomarker, or indirect detection of human growth hormone. So, really what they’re driving at is a concern that if you take too much IGF-1, that it could perhaps influence a drug test or IGF-1. Okay? But the fascinating thing about IGF-1, is that if you ingest it in its whole form, it breaks down into amino acids in the body. Okay? They’ve done radio studies attaching radiological signals to IGF-1 to see if it is absorbed intact in the adult human body, and it’s not. And so, that’s part of the reason why ingesting IGF-1 from colostrum or whey protein would not be considered doping. Okay? If you’re going to dope with IGF-1, you really need to inject the substance. Okay? So, it comes to a matter of form.
Now, it’s not always that simple. There’s this whole Deer Antler industry too. Yes? And in that realm, you’ve seen like the liposomal products, right? We’ve gotten into a day and age of liposomal delivery. For your audience, that’s absorption essentially of larger proteins through the top, so you can absorb things without having it be broken down in the [inaudible 00:13:27]. So, if that’s the case, you could actually potentially absorb IGF-1 and you could potentially be doping. It became a big legal case with the golfer, PGA… or the PGA tour player VJ Singh, was accused of doping after admitting to using a Dear Antler product and he fought a five year lawsuit with the PGA tour over that issue. So, it’s vital. You don’t want to be accused of doping from taking a whey protein or colostrum product. And it’s often the lines are just not finally drawn in this industry.
So, when it comes to Deer Antler [inaudible 00:14:12] or whey protein or colostrum, if you ingest IGF-1 in those kinds of naturally present amounts, it’s not going to be an issue on a drug test in sport. Whereas, if you inject it or possibly if it’s liposomally absorbed, it could… So, these Deer Antler products are dosed with specific amounts of IGF-1. And there was actually a study done at [inaudible 00:14:40] lab that demonstrated that oftentimes it’s spiked with IGF-1 that’s not naturally based. It doesn’t derive from Deer Antler or from the milk that naturally contains IGF-1. So, there’s really a lot of fascinating things to think about just with that one substance.
Steve: It gets more fascinating if you think IGF-1 is denatured in the stomach like a lot of proteins are because of the acid content, but what if you’re taking a drug called Nexium, which is an anti-acid or a PPI, which stops the acid. I mean, maybe you’ll absorb more of it. I’m just being hypothetical here. Nexium is not banned in sport, is it? Not that I know of.
Oliver: You’re right. And there’s a lot of cross reactivity with drugs. There’s a lot of absorption, aides out there these days, many that are added to supplements to aid absorption of ingredients, and how those might affect other things that might be present. It’s not always the focus of studies. There’s a lot always something new to learn, right?
Steve: It’s scary isn’t it?
Oliver: [inaudible 00:15:49].
Matt: You mentioned it before, in testing an athlete, we’re looking for the most minute concentrations to see if we’ve got evidence of them cheating at all. Are you capable of measuring herbal material with the same level of accuracy to make sure that a herbal material is clean before an athlete consumes it. Because, herbal matrix, sometimes they’re very, what we call noisy. We get a lot of peaks and everything on these test results. And in amongst that, a very low dose drug that someone might supplement. They’re using a drug at like 0.5 milligrams as a therapeutic dose and it’ll be in a herbal matrix where we’ve got hundreds or thousands of milligrams of other actives. Are we capable of finding that stuff?
Oliver: No, you’re absolutely right. That’s a great question Matt. And it’s not every supplement product in every mix or formulation is the same. Yes? And when you test the athletes samples, you’re testing the same matrix essentially in urine every time. We’re testing hundreds of different combinations of matrices or mixtures of the ingredients. And so, we do constantly deal with matrix interference. Okay? Particularly with more complex matrices. And for an arm chair person, you can think of mass spectrometry as a series of peaks. Okay? And a peak comes out at a certain time, and that’s indicative of a certain drug. It also has to meet a certain size as well. You fingerprint substances based on these peaks that are presented.
And so, if you have a small amount of a drug for example, that comes up in the same region as something that has a larger peak, you can sometimes be blind to small amounts of substances. So, that’s why in analytical testing, particularly of substances… or dietary supplements, you end up dealing with a detection level range often. And sometimes you can see 95% of the menu at a certain level, but a few other compounds are a little bit more difficult to detect it. So, you’ve got a little bit higher detection level for those. So, there are definitely differences between products that we have to take into consideration when we’re doing the testing.
Matt: We used to do a lot of herbal sort of products… And then there’s certain ingredients like, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with shilajit, which you probably have, shilajit is that dirt from the Himalaya’s. But because it’s almost like a post biotic compound, it’s got pro hormones, naturally occurring hormones, there’s a lot of weird stuff in shilajit and lots and lots of stuff.
Oliver: That’s interesting.
Matt: We struggle with a lot of herbal material in Australia. We try to get the tests, and basically they’ll come back and say, “We can’t find anything. It appears to be clean. We’re looking for it, but there’s too much noise, so we won’t give you a tick of approval.” But then on the other end, so then there’s a lot of athletes and coaches and what they do, they make the mistake then of reading the label and looking at the ingredients on their label and then going to the WADA list to see if those are ingredients are on the list. But, you must have found over the years, there’s quite a few products out there where what’s written on the labels, is not necessarily what’s inside it.
Oliver: Well, and interpreting what’s written on the label is not necessarily always an easy task for laymen or athletes anonymous. And there have been many examples of that. Now, let me get back to shilajit.
Oliver: … because I have some stuff on that. But it’s-
Oliver: Look, I had a tennis player who tested positive and called us up after the fact and wanted to ask me to review some of the supplements he was taking. And so, I reviewed them and in 15 minutes I pulled out the two things off of the labels that were a concern, because I’m pretty well versed in what to look for, and he just wasn’t. And it was just the ultimate exercise. He tested positive for two things, and it was just the ultimate reminder and exercise to me that you have to… it’s the starting point first to look at the ingredients and try to decipher what’s on the label and whether or not it is or isn’t banned, but it’s not always that easy.
And we’ll get to things like shilajit and natural testosterone boosters. And we can look at some of the rating systems that sporting agencies use to evaluate supplements with those in mind. And we can see even further examples of the complexities. Just in the IGF-1 example, you’re talking about banned substance in some forms and not in others. Okay? That’s not fitting into the WADA list. Yeah? You’ve got to know that, and you’ve got to evaluate that. And that’s often the case with herbal products that you’re often talking about. Active chemicals within those herbal products that are the focus points of the formulas. But, some of the activity those things could have, could also drift into certain categories that are banned in sport. Okay? And when you look at the WADA list, and I keep mine handy, so mine’s all doggier here and there’s notes all over it and so forth.
But, I keep my WADA prohibited list handy if I’m able to look at it. Yes. ANd people need to read the language pretty closely. Okay? In almost every category, there’s banned related substance language, okay? Which, essentially means that stuff in that category that’s on the list is prohibited. But stuff that’s not listed could also be the prohibited. Okay? And therein lies the challenge. Okay? If you even want to take that back to a foundational level, the three conditions for listing of prohibited substance on the WADA list are a potential or proven performance enhancement effect, potential or proven harm to an athlete. And the third one is, whether or not something is against the spirit of sport. Okay?
Matt: Yeah, right.
Oliver: But, very nebulous condition. All right?
Oliver: We’re talking about a category of sport nutrition where formulators are targeting performance enhancement in one way, shape or form. And so, it’s often a fine line. These things that are being formulated are obviously not designed to cause harm. So, that one’s out the window. But just because something enhances performance, is it against the spirit of sport? How does this all fit together? I mean, it’s really truly fascinating.
Oliver: So, part of what I do, and I’m always investigating and evaluating ingredients, yes? In products that were asked to certify. And one of the most difficult parts of the job is really interpreting the and related substance language with certain product categories. Okay? So, rewind 10 years and pro hormones were huge in the dietary supplement industry, yes? And these were products that were essentially steroids in a different dress, or different pants, or whatever you want to put it.
Oliver: But, they were steroids that acted like steroids, but they weren’t listed as steroids. Okay? And so, eventually we regulated pro hormones. And slowly after that, what popped up was SARMs, a whole new category of anabolic products. Yeah? A whole new category of investigational drugs, that were designed and looked at for various purposes, some of which ended up building muscle. Okay?
Matt: Hang on, you just said what type of drugs? Investigational?
Oliver: SARMs. Yes.
Matt: Did you say investigational? So, we’re talking about research chemicals?
Oliver: Yeah. I mean-
Matt: Like, not fully established. Like, we don’t understand the safety profile, mechanisms of action and all that sort of stuff? A lot of the time these things are still in that experimental phase, aren’t they?
Oliver: That’s basically what I’m saying. I mean, in the case of selective androgen receptor modulators, SARMs, these things have flooded the dietary supplement market. You can find them online all over the place, from dicey brands. But, in reality, they are investigational drugs. They have not been approved in any country as a drug, but they were developed as pharmaceutical drugs for research purposes. So, they just so happen to, in some cases build muscle. And so, they are good potential alternatives to pro hormones.
Oliver: So, it’s fascinating to watch as regulators plug the holes like they did with pro hormones, [inaudible 00:25:32] SARMs.
Oliver: Okay? And it doesn’t end there. In every World Anti-Doping Agency category of banned substance, I can find you an example of an ingredient from the dietary supplements sphere that in some way is trying to mimic… or not mimic, but has a potential effect that fits that category. And figuring out whether those really are banned and whether they’re not, is one of the things I really enjoy about my job, because it’s immensely interesting. But, it is really complex to athletes, and it’s also really hard for the best meetings supporting groups. Even, like the global drug reference online, or drug free sport here in the US operates an access program where you can look up ingredients or things or submit supplements and see whether or not they’re banned.
Matt: Oh, good.
Oliver: But, it’s hard to look at these things according to a matrix, and always get to, “Okay, this substance is always banned. This substance is not always banned.”
Oliver: The IGF-1 example shows that.
Matt: And whether it shows up, is that… That would have to be a big part of it. I mean, when you’re trying to decide if it’s going to be likely to be a banned substance or not, it’s going to be… Is the dose, or is the metabolites going to turn up in the urine and… Because some of these things share the metabolites as well, so you might take a different pro hormone or different precursor, end up with the same file drug test.
Oliver: Try this one on for size. I mean, it doesn’t even always have to be from the dietary supplement realm. It can just be from the food realm. Meijer lemons. Yeah? You guys got those? You like Meijer lemonade?
Matt: Yeah, I don’t think we do.
Steve: We don’t have them here. But, I’ve heard of them.
Oliver: Meijer has a species of lemon. Yeah? It’s a citrus species. Okay? Well, Meijer lemons naturally contain octopamine.
Steve: Oh yeah, right.
Oliver: Octopamine is a banned substance in sport. Okay? So, I mean, theoretically if you drank Meijer lemonade, you could be drinking a small amount of octopamine. You can take that example well deep into the dietary supplement realm where you’re dealing with sometimes citrus extracts or any variety of plant extracts today. There’s thousands of plant extract ingredients on the market. So, it’s [crosstalk 00:28:06]… that out exponentially. That’s why I say it’s so interesting to consider. But, it’s interesting for me at the end of the day. To an athlete, it’s not interesting if they test positive because of some trace amount of something or another that’s in a plant that they didn’t know about that was in a benign supplement. And that’s what we’re all about protecting people against. We have the expertise to make sure products that we deal with aren’t in that category and don’t pose that risk. [crosstalk 00:28:39] supplement certification programs out there like Informed Sport, Hosta in Australia, they also provide options in that realm.
Matt: Yeah. So this is, yeah, this gets really interesting, because we got these naturally occurring pro hormones or SARMs and that sort of stuff that people could be accidentally consuming, or may not be listed, or they may not understand that they share a metabolite. And we can justify, and we can have… not justify, but we can have those discussions and feel sorry for those athletes and go, “Geez, that was bad luck,” or that sort of thing. And then, we can support them in their fights to clear their name and that sort of stuff eventually. But the problem is too, within the media too then, then they start bagging supplements saying they’re unregulated, natural stuff’s dangerous, no one knows what’s going on.
And then that gives an opportunity for someone that may test positive to a chemical. It doesn’t occur… There’s SARMs out there that are made, like you’re saying before, as research chemicals that you can purchase. They’re not naturally occurring. But, these people then use that excuse to say, “Oh no, I consumed a natural supplement, now I’ve tested positive.” This is the big problem that we’re seeing a lot. The media then just bags natural medicine in general, never whey protein by the way.
Oliver: We’re a part of the dietary supplement industry. We’re absolutely a supportive part of it. And our part in it is to demonstrate that there are premium brands that really spend a great deal of time on quality control in protecting their products. And our seals end up helping to showcase that at the end of the day by putting it on a product. We constantly see the dietary supplement arena assailed by issues in this realm. And it’s, look, 90%… When I say 90% of the issues that the dietary supplement arena is attacked with comes from 5% of the brands. Okay? And it’s the brands that make the decision to choose SARMs, which are illegal drugs. It’s the ones that pushed the envelope. And with methylhexanamine, it’s not good enough, and they regulate that. DNAA, they’ll go find DMPA, and DMCA, and HA and Z… I don’t think ZA is out there yet, but it’s coming.
Oliver: So, that’s why I enjoy doing this work is to be a part of representing the good side of the dietary supplement industry that’s often lost in those media sort of SARMs.
Matt: Well, we’re the ones doing the testing, so…. Yeah.
Oliver: The other thing too is that really if you compare the dietary supplement industry and food, okay? Food actually has less controls and regulations than the dietary supplement industry does as my friend Rob Wildman reminded me of in a great presentation that he did. But, look, it’s in the dietary supplement realm, you’ve got to report adverse events. You’ve got to do individual batch testing as part of quality control. You’ve got to test raw materials when they come into the facility to make sure they meet specifications. All that is part of dietary supplement regulations, which we call good manufacturing practices. Sometimes people see that GMP seals on products. Some of those are kind of invented. But, GMP is essentially a law in the United States now, and all products in the US after we manufactured according to good manufacturing practices.
Steve: Its amazing. It really is incredible, you’re right, ow they are regulated like that. And in Australia, you mentioning SARMs before, it’s been news a lot here lately, because one of our swimmers, Shayna Jack was found to test positive for Anabolicum, which is of course is a SARM. And it was tasted A and B samples, and she’s waiting for a decision from WADA. So, she’s claiming her innocence of course, and she’s innocent until proven guilty. But, I mean, this is a problem, because let’s say she accidentally consumed [inaudible 00:33:11], let’s assume she did, then her career for the next four years is over. So, it’s quite scary, and so it’s quite hot news here in Australia.
Matt: But the thing is… Yeah, sorry. You [inaudible 00:33:22].
Oliver: Don’t worry Matt.
Matt: Well, what is going to say about it is, I mean, the dose for Ligandrol wasn’t it?
Steve: Yeah, Ligandrol [crosstalk 00:33:29].
Matt: So, Ligandrol is like 0.5 milligrams to 2 milligram dose. What I’m curious about is, just say they would have buy a food powder like a mushroom powder or something like that that they’re going to spike up their foods, would you in your opinion be able to find Ligandrol spiked into a mushroom powder or something like that if it was tested?
Oliver: Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean, we find SARMs fairly regularly. So, let me dive into those issues for you with some examples, because you’re talking about it from the athlete perspective. Look, we’ve helped athletes with testing after the fact, so I certainly understand the ramifications and the deep personal effects that athletes feel after it. They’re accused of being dopers. They spend years of their lives trying to resolve the situation. We helped Jessica Hardy here in the US years ago when she tested positive for clenbuterol from a supplement. And, saw the effects that that had on her, and all the work she had to do to resolve it.
But, I’ve also worked with brands to resolve these situations. And so, we’ve seen brands that are completely confident in their quality control situation and in schemes, end up with, trace minute parts per billion quantities show up. They have no idea why. And it just completely confounds them, and really deeply bothers the brands as well. Committed brands, it impacts them. I don’t want to say nearly as much as an athlete, because I don’t want to really compare those two. But, brand owners take their brands very personally and it becomes an extension of themselves in many ways. They hurt too when supplement issues happen.
So, let’s look at some reasons why. Okay? Here in the US I dealt with a case with an NCAA athlete who had tested positive for [inaudible 00:35:40]. Okay? This happened to be Will Grier’s case. It’s been widely publicized. And will had, ironically, he had admitted to taking a product that it was LGD 30, 30… 40, 33. Okay? Which was one of the code names for Ligandrol. You named the other ones. And so, he just didn’t realize that what he was buying as a supplement, was in a supplement package, was actually a selective androgen receptor modulator, it’s banned in sport. Okay? And it happened that this Ligandrol product ended up being contaminated with significant amounts, if not being mostly [inaudible 00:36:25]. Okay? Which, is another SARM. It’s not like these products go through a great deal of quality control. So, sometimes they’re the real substance they claim to be. Sometimes it’s a mix of that and another SARM. It can be a hodge-podge.
So, at any rate, in his case, it was a question of not understanding what he was taking. And now to your point, I can’t crawl inside the mind and know if that was an advantage or excuse or not. I’ll let you comment on that. But, it’s obviously a possibility. Yeah.
Matt: But, you can test for it. If you’re an athlete, you got to be really, really careful about what you’re taking. If you see just because it’s like a food supplement or like a mushroom powder that’s sold as a stock or something like that that is going to improve your well-being or they might talk about as a new tropic or an adaptogenic or might make performance enhancing claims, but… that the problem is that, you said it yourself, those food things aren’t regulated and looking for these things. Plus, you can eat much larger doses of the food and have a minute contamination that you’re taking in a large… and suddenly get a therapeutic dose, because you eating it like a food.
Oliver: Well, and look, athletes are subject to drug testing. So, my new trace amounts that are present in urine may not have any pharmacological, toxicological, any kind of actual effect, but you can still find a remnant in urine that leads to a positive drug test. So, it’s most of the time, or at least not always in the case of SARMs, which people are taking for the active benefit of them. But, then you’re talking about true contamination, most of the time the athletes aren’t getting a benefit. So, look, I talked to you about one example, but I dealt with another NCAA college case here. And the father tracked back the supplement, talked to the supplement manufacturer. Okay? And the owner of the brand, there’s a lot of co-packers and manufacturers that make products for Franz. Okay?
So, the brand had started to be concerned that the co-packer was dabbling in SARMs, okay? And it’s so happened that one of the owners of the manufacturing facility had decided to make SARMs in this manufacturing facility after hours, okay? So, they didn’t follow good manufacturing practice quality control cleaning procedures. And the first run batches the next day are highly subject to contamination. In that case, it wasn’t even known to two of the owners of the manufacturing facility. That’s just an example of how the situation can be out of a brand owner’s hands. And I know sometimes the manufacturing can infiltrate, or contamination can infiltrate a manufacturing facility without some of the owners there even. You would be fascinated all the reasons on why contamination exists.
Matt: I can imagine.
Oliver: We dealt with the case that I really think speaks to this. Okay? So, the active ingredient in this product was a mineral. Okay? And it came from a mine. So, all of a sudden this ingredient starts coming up positive for a stimulant. Okay? Or, it happened to be for DMBA, okay? Dimethylbutylamine which is methylhexaneamine cousin. Okay. It’s fascinating. So, this company did a ton of work to try to figure it out before they came to us. And their other lab was finding this stuff in plant material around the mine and they went to the mine and sampled stuff at the mine beyond just the raw material that was at the manufacturing plant that he put in the product. Okay? And so, I’m like, “Hmm.” I happened to be doing some other work and I chased this thing down, and it ended up being a pesticide in a herbicide.
And in today’s day and age, there’s a real push to get away from chemicals. Okay? There’s wellness, and… There’s a push for natural. Whether it be in the supplement industry or anywhere else. Okay? And that same push is happening it turns out with pesticides. So, where they don’t want to use harsh chemicals, and they’re looking for natural like pheromone alternatives and things like that. Well, it turns out some of these chemicals that are extracts from plants have that benefit of being a herbicide or a pesticide. And so-
Matt: You water your plants with amphetamines you’re going to get busy, bloody bees all right, aren’t you?
Matt: [inaudible 00:41:36] running around [crosstalk 00:41:37] some ideas.
Oliver: I mean, it really struck me because it’s… unless you really are in this industry like me, you’re not presented with that kind of a reality on a daily basis. Even for you guys as brand owners who are deeply involved in this industry and really do care about the quality, it’s… I’m sure that kind of a reality is an eye opener.
Matt: Well, especially if it’s all natural. I mean, like for us, we might want to go and so we want non-GMO, we want organic herbs and stuff like that, but to think that someone might then use a natural alternative that might contaminate it with something you would never have expected in a million years to turn up in that herb, that’s fascinating.
Oliver: It honestly blew me away. That’s the reason why we do what we do. People try to simplify this problem at times and say, “Oh, it’s a raw material issue,” and, “Oh, we need to get better ingredients,” and, “It’s Chinese ingredients,” or, whatever. And that’s not really the case always. There’s so many different ways that contamination can infiltrate the industry. You mentioned plants. Yeah? We talked a little bit about shilajit, but there’s any host of plants that are out there dealing with natural testosterone boosting and so forth, right?
Matt: Yeah. Well, active steroids in Quinoa, for example.
Oliver: Thank you my friend. Active sterols. Yes. And what those are, are essentially plant steroids in a very, very simplified fashion. If you look at an anabolic steroid, it’s a connected group of octagons… not octagons-
Steve: Benzene rings, yeah.
Steve: Benzene rings.
Oliver: So, it’s a ring structure, and a plant sterol, all it is, is just some more advanced groups that are hooked to the top right of this advanced structure. It’s not that different than an anabolic steroid that are banned in sport. Okay?
Matt: It’s in 5% of the plants on earth.
Oliver: Sure. I mean, there’s things like [trochestoreon 00:43:49], or… I can’t remember the…
Matt: [Ajuca 00:43:54] steroid and…
Oliver: Right. Yeah.
Matt: Yeah. [Benactyzine 00:43:56].
Oliver: Those are the kinds of things that are being put in supplements. So, looking at natural alternatives to anabolics. Okay? They really are interesting to consider. There’s a whole group of science that looks at natural plant sterols, whether they could be anabolic or not, how much anabolic activity they could have and so forth. And whether those things are banned in sport is really an interesting interpretational area.
Matt: And how? If you take the example of 20 alpha hydroxysteroid or the [benactyzine 00:44:32], where they compared that and found that equivalent to nerobol with its anabolic effects, and then made a comment that it’s 5% of plants on earth may contain it. I mean, how would a company… how would an athlete or how would a company work with something like… If WADA would have add FidoActive steroids onto the list… I mean, for example, if I was to… We don’t have peanuts and dairy in our manufacturing facility, because in Australia we have to put on the label, may contain traces of nuts or allergens and dairy. Now, if I was to make SARMs out there after hours, I don’t have to put on my label, may contain traces of banned substances, because I do that on the same lines.
Oliver: If you have a phytoestrogen or phytosterol, I mean… But, we’re talking about reality in the world today. Okay? We talked earlier about the sensitivity of drug testing. We’re getting more and more and more sensitive everyday. And in the Jessica Hardy case that I mentioned, she tested positive for parts per trillion amounts of clenbuterol. Clenbuterol is one of the easiest drugs to detect. You can go down to the lowest levels in sport drug testing can be applied to Clenbuterol, all right? Which puts parts per billion levels in a supplement or a meat as it often is blamed on as a potential cause. And Alberto Contador fought his whole case in the Tour de France when he tested Clenbuterol and he blamed it on meat. During the court of arbitration legal case, they said, “No. The most likely source was probably a supplement.”
We are thinking in the anti-doping community as well that there is coming a time soon where our methods to detect small amounts of almost any banned substance in anything. Okay? And I’m going to really blow your mind in a second on a reason why. But, if you start to worry about parts per trillion levels in everything and parts per billion levels of banned substances in food products, think about this. Okay? Water treatment. Water treatment doesn’t get rid of the remnants of drugs completely. Okay? I live down stream. I’m here in Los Angeles. I always like to tell people, “There’s one city that puts more water back into the Colorado river system than it takes out, and that’s Las Vegas.” And you guys put that together as to why. So, I’m downstream. I don’t like drinking the water here, but it’s because I think about that more than anything else.
But, think about that from the standpoint of the remnants of drugs. Okay? And now connect this also with countries like China, where they do make a lot of raw materials in China. And I don’t know what the state of water treatment is in China, but they have a lot of industrial production of drugs. Okay? And so, you can see where I’m driving. Here in the US, and even the World Health Organization set limits on things like cocaine in drinking water, right? Parts per trillion levels are insignificant. And so, we’re starting to have to think a little bit about that and the banned substance realm, and starting to think about lower limits to drug testing thresholds in urine, so that we don’t test athletes positive because of environmental contaminants. And thankfully sport drug testing experts and professionals are already doing that. You’re seeing examples of it with things like Clenbuterol, where it’s starting to be treated a little bit differently in sport.
So, we have to not only get better at testing, but we’ve also got to think about those things. That’s kind of the ultimate example water contamination and the potential for water to be contaminated with low levels of industrial drugs that are produced in China and maybe they get into the dietary supplement realm through just simple [crosstalk 00:48:58] extracts.
Matt: That’s crazy.
Oliver: … real benign ways that you really wouldn’t think could contaminate products. Take, you mentioned phytoestrogens, right? I mean, so anabolic steroids are still being made in production for certain purposes, right? So, things like boldenone, are still used in meat fattening, and whatever in certain places. Okay? So, they used to make boldenone by synthesizing boldenone. Okay? But, they realized that it’s actually more efficient to produce boldenone through micro biological transformation of what? Plant sterols.
Steve: Plant sterols. Yeah, of course they do.
Matt: Yeah. Exactly.
Matt: And the urolithiasis? Yeah.
Oliver: So, it’s an industrial practice now in making of anabolic steroids that starts with a benign, often benign, not prohibited in sport plant sterol and ends with boldenone.
Steve: Usually yams too.
Oliver: You take that down you don’t stop that microbiological transformation. Or even if there’s a little bit left, who’s to say it’s not going to transform that plant sterol into something that could be banned?
Matt: Exactly. And that’s what you see and things like shilajit. Where you have the sterols naturally occurring, you have the microbial fermentation and enzyme degradation and the end result of a naturally occurring hormone, or a post biotic, almost you might want to call it.
Oliver: shilajit is a natural anabolic, and you guys have it in one of your products. I don’t want people to think that it’s a banned substance. It is a natural anabolic. So, it’s a substance-
Matt: Well, we do sponsor some athletes…
Oliver: It’s fascinating.
Matt: Yeah. I know.
Oliver: We’ve actually just certified a shilajit ingredient provider, because of the questions that are often asked surrounding shilajit.
Matt: Yeah, good.
Oliver: It is a complex matrix, but it’s still one that… We do take on testing complex matrices, because it’s often those ingredients that are the things that really, truly need to be tested. So, where there is more of at least conceptual risk. Testosterone boosters is a perfect example, okay? If you look at the Australian Institute of Sport, and I just want to take a second and actually appreciate the work of the Therapeutic Goods Administration, ASADA and also the Australian Institute of Sport. Together, they do a very good job of trying to provide educational materials to athletes and sports people, and I commend them for that. They push people to resources, certification programs like mine that can protect athletes at the end of the day.
Matt: I just, while you’re talking about, there’s a little problem that’s come of because of that. Because of the TGA’s obsession with regulation, they’ve actually… the Australian Institute of Sport now is shut down. So, in Australia, the reality of it is the Therapeutic Goods Administration won’t let the Australian Institute of Sport make any claims about any of their science. And so, the whole funding of their science, because there’s no commercial opportunities coming out of it, because TGA won’t let them make any therapeutic claims on natural substances. So, the Australian Institute of Sports has gone from a dozen scientists down to one person part-time and they don’t do any science now, because of the over reaching of the TGA. Isn’t that crazy? We went from being the best in the world and then… Because when I talked to rich, I talked to Rich Kreider and some of our mutual friends over in the States, and now they’re saying that their whole model, the Australia… Sorry. The International Sports Society and Nutrition and that was, set up a lot of their models based on the-
Oliver: [crosstalk 00:53:01].
Matt: Yeah. They set up a lot of their stuff based on the Australian Institute of Sports model. And now the Australian Institute of Sports model is all crumbled. And it’s quite sad if watch Australian sport.
Oliver: If you look at, I think one of the reasons said what I did, it’s I appreciated the groups in a way for tackling claims more so than some others might be willing to do. I think we talked about performance enhancement before. Yes? And supplements in general. We’re taking them to fuel the body or because of the claims that are out there. And it would be nice to have bodies review those claims and provide more information, not shrink away from doing it.
Oliver: They also don’t want to be tied to those claims per se for liability reasons.
Matt: Yeah, exactly.
Oliver: It’s complex. I appreciated them because of their willingness to deal with those topics too, for their willingness to even deal with something like [inaudible 00:54:04].
Oliver: There’s a giant piece of inflammation, I read it myself. I’m considering [inaudible 00:54:09] certification. And it’s 60-something pages of information on [inaudible 00:54:14].
Matt: Yeah. It’s brilliant, huh?
Oliver: So, you really can educate yourself through that kind of material if you dig in. They still have material that’s… I mean, it’s detailed and lengthy. So, hope hopefully they get some resources to keep that going.
Matt: Yeah, absolutely. Otherwise, we’ll have to take over. ATP will take over.
Oliver: And that’s what we try to put out ourselves. Why I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you guys and use this as a vehicle for that.
Matt: I want to know more about these test boosters, because this is the sort of gray area that confuses me. Because, having-
Oliver: [inaudible 00:54:52].
Matt: Testosterone levels and testosterone boosters, because a natural testosterone booster, a herbal material designed to ask your body to make more testosterone will only really only ever get you into that top end of the normal range. It’s really hard to use a natural substance to push you over the top. And I’m going to get back more to a couple of other things you said before about dresses and pants and sensitivity. So, what’s your theory about your tests…
So, with these test boosters, I want to know what your thoughts are with these tests. It’s a very gray area, because… I mean, I might test someone’s testosterone levels and they might be high-end or normal. I might test a female’s testosterone levels with polycystic ovarian syndrome or something, and they might have higher levels than a bloke. And then, how does the herbs or… we’re looking at anabolic steroids. It’s such a gray area. And is it that performance enhancing to have normal levels of testosterone?
Oliver: That’s a really interesting area of science just to think about in general, right? I mean, testosterone boosting or if you even want to consider yourself clinically low. Okay? It’s basically based on a range. 350 is essentially the level. If you’re below that, you’re low. If you’re above that, you need testosterone. I think friends can tell you that it’s not quite that simple. But, that’s kind of how it’s applied. Let’s not forget this little tidbit that if you actually take an anabolic steroid, you drive down your own testosterone production and limited. And so, there was a period of time where fighters were trying to get to TUEs, therapeutic use exemptions for testosterone, and it’s like the wink, wink, nod, nod, did you drive your own testosterone down to meet this or?
Oliver: So, look, testosterone it’s a big steroids. Yes? It’s been responsible for more positive drug tests than any other drug out there by far for years, and will be forever. But, here’s the interesting thing about testosterone. Okay? So, today, and really looking into the language is interesting. You call it a gray area. I don’t call it necessarily a gray area. So, let me tell you why. BSCG, we certified natural testosterone booster products for the following reasons. So, look, testosterone detection in sport comes down to first a TE ratio, testosterone to epitestosterone. If you go about four, that’s sign of… that you’ve used synthetic testosterone, okay? They do a followup test called carbon isotope ratio. My father developed the carbon isotope ratio tests 20-something odd years ago, I think by now.
And what carbon isotope ratio testing does is it looks at the carbon in the testosterone and tells you whether it’s synthetic or natural. Okay? And so, from that you determine whether or not synthetic testosterone has been applied. Okay? Now you’ve been in more recent times, you’ve introduced testosterone profiling into sport drug testing. And so, now a much like you have what testing for years where they tracked blood testing to look for EPO doping, they do the same for testosterone, and they track your testosterone levels, but it’s an indicator in the profile.
Oliver: Okay? They do target testing if they’re concerned about it, and they look with synthetic testosterone use. So, I circled back and let me say why I cannot equivocally answer your question. So, I go back to the WADA list, here it is. And testosterone’s banned under category S1 anabolic agents, and it falls under S1-B, which are indigenous antibiotic steroids. It means they’re present naturally in your body. So, here is a quote straight from the WADA list. “Endogenous anabolic androgenic steroids, and their metabolites in isomers when administered exogenously, including but not limited to,” and testosterone appears in that section. Okay?
Oliver: So, what the list says is actually the answer to the question. If you don’t administer synthetic testosterone or natural testosterone exogenously IE use natural testosterone, you’re not doping. Okay? And so, if something has an effect in your body, to your point Matt, to slightly increase your testosterone levels… I had a brand owner who sold natural testosterone products put it to me fairly well. Okay? He was a 55 year old guy himself and he was tested for testosterone and he was clinically low. He said, “Look Oliver, I’d much rather take a natural herb that can help boost my own testosterone production than have to take the pharmaceutical drug testosterone, which keep in mind affects your own production of testosterone a bit.”
Oliver: And that was a strong point. So, that to me is really the answer in a nutshell. The WADA list says it itself that if you don’t administer it exogenously you’re not doping. If you take a natural testosterone booster, the testosterone that’s being increased in your body is natural and it will never come up positive on that carbon isotope ratio test that demonstrates that it’s synthetic.
Matt: Do you want me to explain just for listeners what isotope carbon isotopes are? Just very quickly. Well, when you make testosterone, you make more of the… the type of carbon, it has more carbon 13 and carbon 14, which have slightly higher levels of neutrons in the atom. The carbon 12 is where those isotopes are been spent. So, you’ll find that the exogenous testosterones have higher levels of carbon 12, just to get the bit of background chemistry. That’s my understanding.
Oliver: Well, I’m really glad you’re putting it in. I’ll tell you something else in a second.
Matt: Great. I’ll let you tell it. I just wanted… because I didn’t know if people knew at isotopes where at ll. Apart from the team in the Simpsons, the old baseball team in the Simpsons. But, everyone knows the isotopes there. But, I just didn’t know if the average listener knew about isotopes.
Oliver: Well, look, I mean, so to that point, testosterone used to be made from a starting material in yams. Diosgenin being a plant sterol that’s in yams. Okay? And so, if you think back to when Usain Bolt, when his first Olympic gold medal, you remember what his father… His father was interviewed about his secret source [inaudible 01:02:20]. You remember what he said?
Steve: No. It was the yams.
Matt: No, what did he say?
Oliver: He said it was the yams.
Matt: Oh wow. He was already covering. He had a disclaimer out right at the start.
Oliver: So, that’s where my mind went was, is that the… So, I’m really glad you put it-
Matt: That’s funny. Because in Australia, everyone was using progesterone cream at one stage, which was… but that was the sterols from the wild yam was used to make progesterone, but then that wasn’t allowed in Australia, but they could have wild yam in Australia. So, everyone used to bring in the progesterone cream, but just call it wild yam cream. But then what happened is all these Australian companies started selling actually selling wild yam cream. Which is, if anything, has an estrogenic effect when applied as wild yam. So, that’s funny how these sort of things happen. But, when you’re talking about that testosterone…
So, most of the time if someone gets called a drug cheat because they’re found that they’ve shown positive for excessive levels of testosterone or a metabolite or some evidence that they’ve cheated with testosterone, so what you’re saying is using a natural test booster or herbal material that kind of asks your body to make more by just working through the pituitary gland or working through the natural androgen production pathways in the body, those sorts of things only ever get the testosterone up to a certain point, but it’s also in a form that we should be able to tell if it’s endogenous or not. You should be able to tell if someone’s testosterone and metabolites is naturally occurring, that they’ve made it themselves or if it’s come from… Could you tell if it’s come from pro hormones or could you tell if it’s come from other steroids?
Oliver: Unfortunately, you can’t quite get that specific with the testing. You see the increase in the downstream hormone in question and many of them metabolize to common steroids as a whole. So, it’s hard to pinpoint where they started. But you can see a little bit in levels. If you are really using testosterone, your TE ratio might be more like 15 or above. Whereas, if you’re taking a natural testosterone booster… and it also depends on where you start. My dad did a study as part of the development of the TE ratio and the modification of it and carbon isotope ratio where he took a couple thousand college students and he did a bell curve to see where are the TE ratio fell within that. And that was part of the science that was used to adjust the TE ratio over time.
So, when we started sport drug testing, it was a 10:1 ratio. It moved to 6:1 and now it’s a 4:1 as we’ve understood more about the natural testosterone levels and ratios between testosterone and epitestosterone. So, look, if your natural TE ratio is one, you’re probably not going to move your TE ratio over 3:1 if you take a natural testosterone booster, so you weren’t even going to trip that first issue.
Oliver: Athletes to your point, [inaudible 01:05:33], if they even think they’re doping, it’s a concern to them.
Oliver: I mean, many of these people are very ethical sports people. They don’t want to go near drugs banned in sport. And so, the Australian Institute of Sport, for example, has testosterone boosters as a whole categorized as group D. They’ve got four different groups that they sort of put supplements in to try to categorize and educate group. And D is the most risky group. Okay? So, even within their scheme and as best… as well meaning as it is, it’s still difficult to deal with that category of supplement, because it’s so close to testosterone.
Matt: I’m going to throw in another element.
Oliver: [crosstalk 01:06:25]… associated with them.
Matt: I want to screw around with you a little bit more, because while we’re talking about this testosterone thing, in Australia we’ve gone through a bit of a rainbow era of transgender neutralaness. And I’m aware of a few things that I’ve seen from America and that sort of stuff as well. But, have you had any experience with males and females changing the sexual orientation and then choosing to compete in a sport with the opposite sex? And how the hell are we… Is there different levels of testosterone for men and women as an acceptable range before you’re a drug cheat?
Oliver: You’re getting into an area that’s, I mean, really interesting and really difficult to do, for a number of reasons. I think you put this issue into two different realms. And my father was involved in actually writing some of the IOC papers that really had to deal with this issue in reality. And they’re still confronting it right now particularly in track and field, and they’re confronting the reality of testosterone limits for naturally born hermaphrodites who are born with some set of both equipment and with high natural testosterone production levels. And, I mean, this is natural. Yeah? Steve can probably talk about it better than me from a medical standpoint, because I’m not a doctor, but there’s a certain number of people born that way every year. And we can’t exclude them from sport. So, figuring out how to deal with that immensely personal and difficult arena is hard.
Oliver: We started a tiptoe towards testosterone limits and they started to require people that are in that realm through hermaphrodites to take drugs to lower them. [crosstalk 01:08:44]. I understand that in my mind, but I don’t think that’s fair at the end of the day to an athlete and a human being on a human level. But it’s stuff we have to deal with in sport. They dealt with that in the LPGA. And they had to confront how long between… The other part of this equation is people that elect to change their sets. And that’s a more difficult question. It’s, could you change your sex for gain in sport?
Matt: Yeah, just to get a world record or something.
Oliver: Could you somehow, if you’re male, become a female fighter and be much more successful in female fighting?
Oliver: In the LPGA, can you hit the ball farther, because you’ve got a different genetic makeup? And those are interesting questions. And we dealt with it in a way, in a time period, a time frame lapse in some of those questions. However you answer the question, there’s always going to be questions that remain, and there’s always going to be difficult elements of it. There’s a lot of those questions in fight sport where it’s, is it fair to have equal fight each other? Is it fair to have a man fight a woman? You know? Hello?
Matt: Yeah. It’s funny, because you’re seeing-
Oliver: [inaudible 01:10:25] did okay.
Matt: In Australia, we’ve got a weird era where regardless of anatomy, physiology, if you choose to identify at the risk of offending someone, you have to kind of let them play. I mean, so if we then set a limit of what’s an acceptable level of testosterone where it’s a neutral playing field between men and women where you’ve then got to, what you just suggested, is some people have to suppress their natural levels to be an even playing field, well, that goes back to your initial start where you said there’s three reasons to ban a substance. One of them could do harm. That’s not helping anyone’s health by blocking a natural level of hormone that they need. Now, would that then be more fair to allow the people with the low levels to supplement, to get up to an even playing field? So, this is where it gets-
Oliver: There’s also a needle policy and you probably would inject those kinds of things [inaudible 01:11:16].
Matt: Yeah. It’s in the right sources. We still lower the right sources and we’d spell them. We’d just go, “I’m going to juice you…” And we’d have a horse that’s kind of not real flash. So, put it out and say, “Oh, we’re going to retire the horse.” Put it out in the paddock for six months. We do three months a year, built a giant new horse, bring it back, they come clean. But the frame has been built. And it’s the frame that they… if they can maintain that frame and be… have an extra advantage and still pass a drug test.
Oliver: Sure. I mean, there’s a realm of genetic doping and so forth. And genetics are big in polo these days. And it’s one of the realms where they re-made the same famous polo [inaudible 01:11:59] over and over and over again. And, I can’t remember that guy, but he rides the same horse in a clone form every race.
Matt: That’s crazy.
Oliver: And it’s starting to deal with early, early forms of genetic doping in humans as well. Okay? And what you’re starting to see in our realm is it’s actually in and around the realm of myostatin inhibitors. It’s the earliest form of sort of genetic doping. And so, what they started to do in genetic circles in doping is, they take an inactive virus and they take a substance like follistatin, okay? Follistatin is a naturally present substance. It’s in egg yolks, and so forth. But, follistatin also has an effect as a myostatin inhibitor. Okay? And it boosts your muscle. All right? So, they… in simplest terms. So, myostatin inhibitors are, it’s a category of what a prohibited substance. It’s a newer category where there happened to not be very many examples until this year when follistatin became one of the first examples of a banned drug in that category. There’s a few other proteins that qualified.
But, if you look at this example, the reason it was banned, was because follistatin is hooked to a virus and injected in your body. And it replicates, and that’s how you get the myostatin inhibition functionality. Okay? But, the dietary supplement industry is also coming along and there’s a product on the market that is made from activated follistatin and some other ingredients, that’s actually certified by one of our competitors. Which is really interesting to think about, that follistatin just becoming a banned substance in sport. And it’s really, it’s another example of the imperfections in our realm. You might ask, “How in the world can one of my competitors certify follistatin or a supplement that contains it, if it’s on the WADA prohibited list?
Oliver: The answer is in the forms and the types of the products that you take and what you’re taking. Honestly, there’s so many different examples of myostatin inhibitors. Look, one of the biggest ones in the dietary supplement realm today is green tea extract. Okay? Epicatechins from green tea. You literally see products, epicatechin. And right below it on the function panel, they’ll say, “Myostatin inhibitor.” So, does that make that a banned substance in sport? By name? Yes. My interpretation, yes. By function even, yes. By urine tests, no. Why? Because they’re not testing for the drugs, it’s for the constituents of green tea extract. And therein is why I have a job probably for a long time, because interpreting that stuff is challenging and it’s… there’s constantly stuff coming from the natural product realm that is pushing the limits and trying to push into new categories of banned substances, not even purposely because they’re banned substances, but because they may have some kind of benefit to your body.
A lot of these things are being made for anti-aging, for muscle wasting disorders and things along those lines. The problem with the pro hormones is that they had a potential to cause liver failure in some of these… some serious harmful effects. Well, with an epicatechin or some of these other things, you don’t see those levels of harm. Mind you, we really need to do studies on the upper limits in toxicity and that’s not always done. We can push the limits and push the dosing and it’s… I don’t want to see 10,000 milligram doses with epicatechin products out there.
Oliver: Usually they’re out there like 300 milligrams. Take a substance like theobromine, right? Theobromine is a natural chemical in chocolate. Yeah? But now you’re also seeing it as the stimulant product the realm has developed, now you see products that are 98% theobromine. Whereas, chocolate or cocoa extracts might be 20%. So, have you just taken a week stimulant and turned it into a strong one? You kind of have by dosing, not by the nature of the actual chemical. But, we’ve got to think about that too and what we allow or don’t allow and in forming those and so forth. [crosstalk 01:17:07] to our thinking process.
Matt: And it goes into, like you said, for the spirit of competing and are we cheating and that sort of stuff. In Australia again… I don’t want to keep giving an examples. We could talk forever on this, because it’s just so much. And I love these kind of weird discussions where it’s like, we realize at the end of it we’re left with even more questions. But in Australia, well, I noticed in America everyone’s bloody doing CBD. Now in Australia, CBD is not very well regulated in the sense that it’s a typical. We get the highly regulated parts that they want to use for drugs and then we get the guys making their own hash oil in the backyard and selling it with a CBD label.
Steve: How did you know?
Matt: I saw you Steve.
Matt: He brought it back from Nimbin, that MardiGrass.
Oliver: That’s it in that [inaudible 01:17:54].
Matt: Yeah, that’s right. So, my understanding is a lot of the original data was looking at the THC, the narcotic or the hallucinogenic component of it had a lot of the really good benefits were coming from the THC. The CBD has got a lot of pain relief and anti-inflammatory. But, I’m thinking there’s probably a lot of CBD products or a lot of products that they’re labeled CBD that may also have THC and that sort of stuff in it. What’s the regulatory status for… Are these now gone from recreational drugs to performance enhancing drugs or something?
Oliver: No, I wouldn’t put it quite there. I mean, CBD is enormously interesting. I mean, it’s one of the fastest growing product categories out there today. You’ve gotta be blind to not see it. It’s in cosmetics, beauty shops.
Oliver: Coca Cola is thinking of getting involved with it and so forth. I mean, everyone wants to know about CBD, and it’s obviously got a draw to athletes, because one of the benefits that’s talked about the most is pain management, particularly as far as chronic pain management is concerned. So, it’s got other benefits talked about it, like focus or things like that. It’s performance enhancement, muscle building not so much. But, keep in mind, this is a category that’s sort of developing and a lot of the research is also developed.
So, I think people will look at different formulations and combinations and so forth. [inaudible 01:19:31] professors who spend time doing the clinical studies to deal with it. Now, athletes, sports people, consumers, I mean, even consumers are subject to workplace drug testing. And to your point, they don’t want to take too much THC, while they want to benefit from CBD. So, looking at the industry… So, THC and CBD both come from cannabis, the cannabis plant. Okay? And cannabis comes in two primary forms, Marijuana, the… the devil weed that people have been after for years. And, hemp. Okay? And hemp is the industrial product that is grown for rope and what have you.
Steve: [inaudible 01:20:13].
Oliver: Yeah. So, hemp has been grown for years even in the US. We grew it back when the country was founded and they say, “The dollar,” whatever else, the original one was printed off hemp or whatever they say.
Matt: Yeah, right.
Oliver: So, I mean, it is a big part of our agricultural history. But, obviously because of the marijuana and THC component and the psychoactive effects that come with it, it got stigmatized and controlled and so forth. And so, the hemp side of the industry is still suffering.
Oliver: Hemp within the last decade, you’ve seen the CDD product… industry explode. And CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid present in cannabis. So, the primary difference between hemp and marijuana is, hemp species are grown to be low in THC and usually high in CBD. In fact, hemp according to agricultural production is limited by the percentage of THC that it could have. So, you can’t legally grow hemp over a certain percent. In the US, it’s 0.3%. In the EU it’s 0.2%. And so, that’s what defines a product that is made from the legal hemp. But it doesn’t just stop there for an athlete or someone that’s drug testing, because the percent doesn’t define how much you take on a daily dose basis. And so, we’re actually incredibly proud we’ve brought this program to market. Certified hemp.
Steve: Certified hemp.
Matt: Yeah, all right.
Oliver: So, we recognized the product category and the interest in it. We had recognized that it was relatively unregulated, and we really want it to be one of the first third party certification providers to offer a quality control testing scheme, a premium quality control testing scheme to the industry.
Matt: Yeah, good.
Oliver: We’ve done that on our foundation, which is ban substances and sport and ultimately protecting athletes and others from positive drug tests. And so, we’ve devised a way to do that for hemp and CBD products by limiting the amount of THC that is ingested on a daily dose basis. And so, we’ve looked at the research, the published studies that are available, and we’ve selected our thresholds very, very conservatively, so that you would be well below any threshold that’s used in either workplace or sport drug testing.
So, we’re very excited about the program. We’ve certified our first product in four, five CBD. We’ve got some others coming down the pipe, and it’s we include testing for our full list of a WADA prohibited substances. We verify how much of the cannabinoids are present. We test for heavy metals, plasticides, solvents and micro [inaudible 01:23:07]… GMP on it. So, we really verify that the products we’re certifying are premium quality and had been made with good quality control systems in place. And at the end of the day, we checked it with our own testing. So, I’m excites to be part of that industry, but there’s countless questions within sporting realm about it. It really comes down to urine testing thresholds in sport.
Matt: I want to stay up, I think.
Steve: So do I.
Matt: [crosstalk 01:23:40]. I want to ask you this question, but you don’t have to answer, okay?Oor we can edit out if you think we probably all get shot. But, I’m a little bit skeptical about a couple of things that are happening in the world at the moment. I look at some of this CRISPR technology when you’re talking about genes stuff before, that scares the hell out of me. But I don’t like seeing certain groups and that sort of stuff take over so much control. I start to think there’s potential for corruption and that sort of thing. But, I look at, from Australia, we’ve regulated TGA, [Fazans 01:24:13], all that sort of stuff. But, yeah, we get all these emails and marketing material for NSF certification. We do the GMP manufacturer, we have the… We have all that. There’s this NSF certification that they believe will supersede GMP or something.
And then, I also see these NSF certification for a different version of genetically modified foods. So, you’ve got the Don GMO projects, you’ve got non-GMO verification, and there’s a lot of genetically modified ingredients that are allowed into that non-GMO one with the NSF certification. And I think I heard something that there might be a deal going on between WADA and NSF, where NSF is going to be taking over all the certifications for WADA as well. So, how could one group then be the certifier for good manufacturing practices, and then, “Yeah, I certify that you made that well,” and then also then be the certifier if the product tested with the contaminated… excuse me, with the contamination or something. Are you a bit nervous about how some groups like that could come in and take over so much power within our certification? It’s supposed to be independent.
Oliver: In a sense to me it’s actually somewhat exciting, in a way. And it might be odd to put it that way, but it’s… We’re part of a relatively small industry, a third party certification. Yeah? And NSF certified for sport is one of our colleagues informed sport is out there doing what they do. Hosta in Australia, Cologne List in Germany. Ourselves, BSCG in the US. You’re seeing growth of third party certification, because there’s more interest in premium quality and in verifying the truth behind the marketing, and verifying label claims, and making sure that people aren’t putting in banned substances. And to me it’s, if that’s what I want to see from my industry is it grow, and the importance of it continue to grow in the world.
What I would say about systems is that, it’s impossible to build a perfect system. Okay? The WADA system is not perfect. There is no perfect third party dietary supplement certification program. Okay? Mine included. But, what I do want to see is everybody doing the best that they can to do the job at hand. And NSF does do a good job in our realm of banned substance certification. I consider them a leader in the realm. They form sport as a leader in the realm. And really when it comes down to with dietary supplements certification, this is important to athletes at the end of the day is, what are you testing for? What’s your testing [inaudible 01:27:07]? What level can you detect in that? Your detection limits? What frequency of batches are tested? Okay? And how is that represented to a consumer or an athlete? And so, those are really the important elements that I see.
And really at the end of the day, the most important thing to an athlete is to test a product and a specific individual lot number and make sure that that lot number that’s stamped on the product package has been tested through a reputable program. And you can-
Matt: And that’s a great point that, because what people need to realize is you’ve got to… it’s batch testing. There’s not a product that’s been tested and shown to be clean or a brand. You’ve got to go to some of these databases and actually review the batch number and make sure that the batch you’re taking was the one that was tested and shown to be clean, if you want to have any… Yeah.
Oliver: You absolutely do. And that’s why you also need to pay attention to the testing bodies batch testing frequency.
Oliver: In our program, we test either every batch, or we have a monthly option. In informed sport, they test every batch. Informed choice is a monthly option. Okay? You’ve got to understand that with each testing steam that you’re involved with and scrutinize it. In the case of NSF, they do very good technical work, but they don’t disclose the batch testing frequency publicly. And in some cases, they list products with the word all in their database, when in fact a subset of batches may be tested. So, you’ve got to be a little bit careful about those kinds of things and you’ve got to be honest and Frank about it from our standpoint as a certification provider. I mean, right on my database, the last sentence says, “If a lot number is not listed, it has not been certified.” We go to that length. They sit there and communicate with athletes when they’re checking our database just to make sure they’re getting a product that’s been certified.
Matt: That’s on your webpage? Is there a database where they’re all found, or do we have to go to the NSF page, or your page, or the HASTA page? Where would an athlete find this information, or would they go back to the manufacturer and ask us?
Oliver: Ultimately, the best thing is to go to the actual certification providers site and verify the lot number in the actual database. We all have a lot number field where you just put in the search and then it’ll pick that product out. Or, you can look at it by name, or whatever you want. But, you definitely need to take that step for any supplement that you’re considering. It’s one of the most important things an athlete can do for themselves. Even a product that has a seal, has some small slight [inaudible 01:30:07], slight risk of having some contamination [inaudible 01:30:12]-
Steve: And can I ask a question? Just very broadly and very quickly. I know I look like I love to talk all day about this, but I think the last hour and a half we’ve kind of scared a lot of professional athletes that may be wanting to be… They can get contaminated from my whatever… colostrum or whatever. What would you recommend to the average athlete that… Say I’m a Supreme athlete? It’s easy to imagine, I guess just looking at me. But say I’m a performance athlete, and I’m worried that my supplements or whatever… would you recommend to that athlete, “Hey, go and get your urine test or some sort of test now, just to be sure to make sure you’re not doing anything wrong right now.” Is that a recommendation that you would give, or have you got another… any advice for the professional athletes out there who wants to be clean?
Oliver: Sure. That’s I think a great way for us to sort of conclude. I mean, there’s a number of good supplement products out there that are quality products that are not going to be a problem for anybody. We could talk about the small risks that are associated with them and where the issues may come from, but the vast bulk of products that are on the market are not contaminated and don’t have these issues. For an athlete though, you can’t have any questions at the end of the day. So, you want an easy process of understanding that a product is going to be acceptable for me to use in minimizing the risk of any contamination. And really, it starts in a couple of ways.
Number one, we always advise people to work with qualified sport nutritionists, doctors and people like that to discuss dietary supplements, how you can put them together to benefit you, so you can really get a good supplement routine that’s going to be helpful to you as opposed to just sampling all kinds of stuff. So, get your guidance. Those people, your sport nutritionist from International Society of Sport Nutrition and other groups, college and professional sport dietitians, National Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association, those types of people, have the additional expertise to review products and labels and so forth, a little bit better than your average athletes.
So, definitely do that. Look for reputable supplement brands. Brands that participate in third party certification programs are always going above and beyond the rest of the industry from a standpoint of quality control. So, clothes are good brands for athletes to look for. And really, what we try to do is take the work off the athlete. Yeah? With our seals on there, you shouldn’t have to review the ingredients, because we’ve done that. You don’t have to be worried about it being contaminated, because we’ve tested it to the best of our abilities. So, third party certification is more and more important, and it really just creates that peace of mind, not just for the consumer and the athlete, but for the brand knowing that they’re going to be able to continue to develop without issues along the way.
So, we’re really happy to be where we are. And I think hopefully people get a little bit of a sense through this discussion of the types and… the group we are and our willingness to really talk about the issues and take the time to get into them. And that’s really what I enjoy a lot of is getting into that and helping them to decipher them, so there is more understanding about dietary supplements and natural products and the good that they can do without this sort of worry looking over your shoulder and stuff.
Matt: And the athlete doesn’t need that sort of worry. They want to be focused on doing what they do well, which is being an athlete. And then, companies like us that do their own manufacturer and do all the third party testing can give them that peace of mind, then they can just confident… Because, we can even walk them back through the facilities. There are no banned substances out here, let alone potentially getting onto one of our conveyor belts.
So, I think that’s probably a good place to wrap it up. Like I said, I’ve got so many notes here about this stuff I want to talk to you about and other little… But, I’m like that. I just want to keep asking these stupid questions and-
Steve: When’s part two?
Oliver: We’ll do part two whenever you’re ready.
Matt: Yeah. We’ll have to come back and do some more I think. Thank you so much for your time, Oliver. It was really great. I know-
Steve: This is awesome.
Matt: I just want to keep talking about it.
Steve: So do I.
Matt: But, we’ll do more another time I think.
Steve: Another time.
Oliver: My pleasure. I’d love to. I really do like getting into this stuff. I’ve lived it. I can pull countless examples out, that really at the end of the day, it’s the real world of dietary supplements and what matters to athletes and what doesn’t.
Oliver: So, we’re really happy to be where we are and having the ability to do some good and really help the image of the dietary supplement industry and really help to boost it, and create that trust at the consumer and athlete level on these types of products.
Matt: No, I think it’s fascinating. Well, thanks Oliver for your time today, but also what you’re doing for the industry. I really think it’s going to make it all better.
Oliver: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Steve: Thanks Oliver.
Matt: See you mate. Bye.
Steve: Have a great day.
Female: Thanks for listening.
Female: And remember…
Female: … question everything.
Female: Well, except what we say.