DMAA flares at heart of English rugby scandal

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

DMAA flares at heart of English rugby scandal

Related tags World anti-doping agency United kingdom

The controversial stimulant, DMAA (1,3 Dimethylamylamine) has reared its increasingly ugly head again, this time in the UK, where use of DMAA-containing supplements have provoked bans for several professional rugby players.

The latest is a scandal which broke in UK newspapers over the weekend as it was revealed several players at the Hull rugby league club were in the practice of ‘doping’ with OxyElite Pro​, a pre-workout supplement containing DMAA made by US firm, USP Labs.

The Mail on Sunday ​reported of systematic OxyElite Pro​ doping at Hull that saw several players banned for DMAA (also known as MHA (methylhexanamine)) amid a sea of deceit as the club encouraged its players to cover up the usage after Hull's former Great Britain rugby league international Martin Gleeson tested positive for the substance. To date he is the only Hull player to be banned.

MHA-DMAA is a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) prohibited substance and other players have fallen prey to it including rugby union codists Karena Wihongi and Nico Steenkamp.

With there being about 70 DMAA-MHA-related bans for international athletes in 2010 and 2011 alone, the argument proposed by Gleeson and others that they mistakenly took the supplement was never going to hold much water with authorities.

They may have been advised that the supplement was safe, but WADA and national anti-doping bodies hold individuals responsible for all bodily inputs.

DMAA-MHA is not authorised for use in food supplements in the European Union, but is included in many pre-workout, weight loss and body building products – usually labeled as geranium extracts.


There is an ongoing debate, especially in North America, about whether DMAA, first manufactured synthetically by drug giant Eli Lily in the 1940s and trademarked as Forthane in 1971, is in fact a constituent of geranium, with the consensus growing that it is not.

Health Canada in August issued a statement that DMAA is not found naturally in geranium in affirming that any products containing it require a drug authorisation. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is looking into the matter, whilst trade groups are conducting investigations of their own.

Authorities in France and Italy are also in the midst of investigations and complaints about it have been received by the UK medicines regulator as DMAA-linked adverse events have mounted, especially with a ‘party pill’ reputation spreading that sees consumption at much higher levels than that recommended by USP Labs and other supplement manufacturers.

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