Tue | Sep 26, 2017

The Wright View | Questions about retests

Published:Tuesday | June 7, 2016 | 6:00 AM

The international press published news last week that a Jamaican athlete who had won a gold medal in the 2008 Olympics had tested positive for a banned substance and was now awaiting the result of his 'B' sample results.

The news that Nesta Carter, a mainstay of several gold medal and record-breaking relay teams for more than a decade, had tested positive for methylhexanamine, could not have come at a worse time.

The nation expects our track and field athletes to exceed our previous record performances (in regards to medals won) at the next Olympics in Rio, and Carter, although not racing recently, was expected to be a part of tradition and continue our dominance in the 4x100 metres relay.

There seems to be two reasons why Jamaicans are incensed by this breaking news.

First, how can and athlete be punished eight years later for a sample that was supposedly declared "clean" in 2008; and second, wasn't methylhexanamine off the banned list in 2008?

The decision to keep samples was made by the head of the medical commission of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) just before the Sydney Olympics, when he got information about the work being done by the Bay Area Laboratory Company (BALCO).

His informant told him that BALCO had developed an anabolic steroid that was being used by Olympians that could not be detected by present (at that time) analytical methods, but the substance and its formula was now known and a test to detect it would be developed "soon".

 

RETESTING REGULARISED

 

The laboratory agreed to keep the samples (even those that were passed as negative) and then work started to have the necessary rules in place to allow retesting of samples. It is now well established and agreed to by athletes that samples WILL be kept for 10 years and retested time and time again as new information about performance-enhancing substances and their formulation become mainstream knowledge.

Metylhexanamine, also known as forthan, forthane, floradine geranamine, is a psychoactive drug used as a nasal decongestant. Geranamine is also a constituent of flower oil and is sold as an integral component of nutritional supplements. Its chemical formula is C7 H17 N and its molecular mass is 115,22g/mol.

Although intended for use by its inventor as a nasal decongestant, geranamine is marketed as a dietary supplement.

Geranamine is not approved by the FDA, although it is classified as a dietary supplement because it is found in geranium oil and thus cannot be classified as a pharmaceutical product, thus escaping FDA regulation.

The sleight of hand, however, is that while geranamine comprises only 0.66% of geranium oil, pure synthetic geranamine is thus quite different from geranium oil. Synthetic geranium is used as the active ingredient of several legal party pills.

Party pills are also known as herbal highs, pep pills, dance pills and natural power. The main ingredient of these pills was benzylpiperazine (BZP), but because of its tendency to produce migraine headaches, the manufacturers have now included synthetic geranamine, which gives the same high as BZP without the migraine and as a dietary supplement escapes the scrutiny of FDA-like regulators.

 

SPORTS DRINKS

 

Geranamine has now found its way into sports drinks. Readers should be reminded that in 2009, five Jamaicans tested positive for methylhexanamine. They were originally cleared by a disciplinary tribunal, but after an appeal by JADCO, four males were banned and the lone female exonerated because her 'B' sample was tested without her knowledge or approval.

Methylhexanamine has the same formula as the stimulant tuaminoheptane (C7H17N), with a molecular mass of 115.217. Tuaminoheptane has been on the list as a banned substance since 2004.

It should be very easy to see that methylhexanamine and tuaminoheptane are of a similar chemical structure and have the same biological effect.

According to World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) rules, if the effect and the formula are similar, then the sanctions will apply.

What is interesting is that tuaminoheptane was reclassified as a 'specified substance' in 2009, which according to WADA means that "it is acknowledged to be susceptible to unintentional violation because of its general availability in medical products and not intended to improve performance".

However, after an appeal, the information submitted to the disciplinary panel caused them to issue a ban on the four Jamaicans, setting a precedence that may be difficult to ignore.

So as it is with Andre Russell, who awaits a hearing with Jamaican authorities for a violation of the WADA code some months ago, we are left to wonder if some way, somehow, the authorities can be encouraged to convene before the end of the year in the Carter case?

This would bring closure BEFORE the Olympics.

But this is JA. Dare we hope!