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WADA lab clears Thermotone

WADA lab clears Thermotone
SPARC concerned about harm to NZ’s reputation from supplements stories

September 23, 2011
An independent test carried out at the WADA-accredited lab in Sydney has confirmed that the supplement Red8 Thermotone would not have returned a positive anti-doping test.

SPARC Chief Executive Peter Miskimmin says the result was as he expected, and he’s extremely concerned about the harm that’s been done to the reputation of both New Zealand’s athletes and its high performance system through allegations that have been made about a nutritional supplements programme.

“This whole sorry saga has been an unwelcome distraction for our athletes who are working hard preparing for major events. They have told us how distressing this has been to have both the supplements programme, and their own reputations, brought into disrepute in this way.

“We’re also extremely concerned that a newspaper has obtained and used confidential information concerning athletes. Athletes have been made to feel they’ve done something wrong. But nothing that has been accessed through the programme could have triggered a positive doping test and no one has tested positive – end of story.”

Miskimmin says there was an administrative loophole in the ordering process of the supplements programme run by the New Zealand Academy of Sport (now part of High Performance Sport New Zealand) which allowed a small number of athletes to order products which were not on the approved list. This loophole has now been closed. Those products included Thermotone and Tribulus, which have been at the centre of the allegations.

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“Athletes should not have been able to receive any unapproved products through the programme. The NZAS accepted that there was an administrative loophole which allowed that to happen, and it was closed. Neither product is approved by the NZAS, or would have returned a positive doping test. That is where this matter should have ended.

“The IOC and WADA have been unnecessarily dragged into this. We have spoken to both the IOC and WADA this week and we have no reason to believe we are out of step with either organisation.”

A study conducted in 2008 showed that New Zealand athletes were taking nutritional supplements and that many were doing this without seeking the advice of a professional. There were concerns that this could lead to inadvertent positive doping tests.

The New Zealand Academy of Sport decided to develop a supplements programme which would help educate athletes about the benefits and risks of using supplements, and provide a reliable source of supplements which were manufactured to a high standard, for those who wanted to take them.

Because of the recent allegations around the safety of the programme, in August SPARC commissioned an independent review which was conducted by Wellington barrister Tim Castle.

“It was a very thorough review, and it made a number of recommendations for changes to the way the programme was run, including closing the administrative loophole which had already been identified. But it also found that no product accessed through the programme would have returned a positive dope test.”
Tim Castle’s report was accepted by the SPARC and HPSNZ Boards, and the recommendations are being implemented.


Tribulus is a herbal supplement that is not prohibited by WADA. It is consumed as a green leafy vegetable in East and South Africa, India and Pakistan, and used traditionally as a tonic. It is used by athletes around the world.
Some people believe, mistakenly, that Tribulus can raise testosterone levels which could lead to a positive doping test. The science disproves this. HPSNZ does not condone the use of products that claim to enhance testosterone levels, and athletes are educated as such. The final decision on what athletes choose to put into their bodies lies with the individuals.

Thermotone and octopamine

Octopamine is an endogenous substance in the human body and is also found in many food types, including fish sauce, meat products and bitter orange.
Octopamine is banned by WADA in competition, but out of competition there is no limit on the amount of octopamine in athletes’ urine. Yet since octopamine was added to the banned list for in-competition testing in 2006, WADA figures show there have only been 8 cases worldwide of athletes testing positive for octopamine (figures to December 2010). It is likely that these people were taking octopamine in the form of synthetic octopamine supplements for the purpose of rapid weight loss.

As Red8 Thermotone contained bitter orange, it had very low levels of octopamine, but not enough to trigger an anti-doping violation. Information from the WADA Science Director confirms that people consuming bitter orange are very unlikely to produce urinary octopamine above the reportable level and this is reflected by the lab statistics. Laboratories either do not detect or do not report very low levels of naturally occurring octopamine.

This is consistent with the advice from the Sydney laboratory that the low levels of octopamine in Red8 Thermotone should not produce a positive test.

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