Mark Zalewski, North American Editor
American cyclist Amber Neben, along with professional triathletes Rebekah Keat and Mike Vine, filed a lawsuit in a California district court last December against Hammer Nutrition, maker of Endurolytes. The lawsuit alleges that the product contained unlisted substances that caused all three plaintiffs to produce positive doping tests, and that further resulted in subsequent doping violations and sanctions.
Court documents obtained by Cyclingnews state that each plaintiff took multiple capsules of the product Endurolytes before competing in events in which each subsequently tested positive for 19-norandrosterone, a metabolite of the banned steroid norandrostenedione found in urine. Arguing for the plaintiffs is Howard Jacobs, well known for his work with Floyd Landis' case as well as other professional athletes involved with doping violations.
The lawsuit, which was initiated by Keat and her twin-sister Simone, states that Simone had the capsules in question independently tested by the WADA-accredited Doping Control Centre lab in Malaysia in June of 2006, all before retaining Jacobs. That lab reported to Keats that the capsules contained dehydroepiandrosterone and 4-androstenedione. Upon further examination, after repeated requests by Keat, the lab also found the samples were contaminated with norandrostenedione.
Keats retained Jacobs and the capsules were sent for testing at a different lab, Anti-Doping Research, Inc., a non-profit research organization started by Don Catlin, the founder of the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory. Vine and Neben then joined the suit, but their actual capsules were not available for testing.
Neben's positive violation came from the 2003 Montreal world cup race while she was racing for T-Mobile, which at the time was also run as the USA Cycling Women's Development Team, headed by Mike Engleman. Hammer Nutrition supplied Engleman and the team with product.
Neben took a voluntary suspension before being handed a six-month, reduced sanction. The reduced sanction from a possible two years to six months came from the Court of Arbitration for Sport, along with a strong criticism of USAC by the majority, citing supplement contamination as the likely cause of the positive and chastising USAC for "encouraging the use of supplements, including Hammer Nutrition products..." which "underscored the total disregard for the warnings USADA and IOC have issued for years."
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