Philadelphia Eagles’ Lane Johnson Might Have a Point
Okay Isn’t Good Enough for Drug Tested Athletes
The utility of a mobile app that proffers to help NFL players steer clear of nutritional supplements that contain banned substances is being called into question.
“To be honest, I put all my trust in the Aegis Shield,” Lane Johnson of the Philadelphia Eagles said. “Maybe it reflects on me, but I do feel players are mislead on that.” Johnson is awaiting the results of his B sample testing after his first sample tested positive for peptides. If the B sample tests positive, Johnson could face a 10-game suspension.
“What’s the purpose of the app,” asks Johnson, “if it does nothing to protect players?”
Johnson is right.
Aegis Shield was developed by the Aegis Sciences Corporation and advertises that the app “helps keep athletes clean and in the game by providing a website and mobile app designed to quickly and easily identify the presence of banned substances in dietary supplements.”
The supplement app was rolled out to NFL players by the NFLPA at its annual meeting in March of 2013. On day two of the meetings, June Rogers, the NFLPA’s then Director of Drug Programs and Policies, explained to players the Aegis Shield system in which players could determine if any ingredient in a product is banned before they take the product.
Searching the Aegis Shield for All Day You May (Blue Raspberry) like sources say Johnson did, pulls up a photo of the product with the caption “If you’d like to see if All Day You May (Blue Raspberry) contains substances that are banned by your sport organization’s Banned Substance List, sign up now or log in.” Sounds definitive and easy.
According to Aegis Shield’s FAQs here’s how you know if a product is banned.
After finding your product on Aegis Shield, one of three statuses will appear: Okay, Caution, or Banned. Depending on the ingredients found on the product label and whichever banned substance list (BSL) you have selected, one of the three statuses will appear with the product. The three categories also have a corresponding symbol and color scheme that follows the universal rules of the road. Green with a ✔ means go, yellow with a ! means caution, and red with ∅ a means stop.
Here’s more from the Aegis FAQs.
When a product has a “Banned” status, is it unsafe for me to use?
The “Banned” status indicates that one or more of the ingredients on the label is banned by your selected sports organization.
What does “Caution” mean?
“Caution” means that it is possible that the product might contain a banned substance. Product labels sometimes contain proprietary or trademarked ingredient blends without specifying the actual ingredients in the blends, so it is impossible for Aegis Shield to accurately evaluate all of the product’s ingredients. It is also possible that one or more of the product ingredients are similar to a banned substance
There is NO information in the FAQs on the meaning of the status “Okay”.
Within the pages of product descriptions and ingredients Aegis Shield does include the following statement: Products that receive the “Okay” status could theoretically contain banned substances not listed on the label.
It is unclear what the difference in meaning is between “it is possible” and “could theoretically.”
On each product page Aegis Shield states that it only compares the ingredients listed on the supplement label to known banned substances. It does not confirm the accuracy of the listed ingredients itself nor perform any laboratory testing unless otherwise specified.
Veteran Sports Registered Dietitian and long time advisor on “food and supplement security” issues for drug tested teams, Dave Ellis, has always had concerns over the possible confusion any kind of list might create that validates dietary supplements as safe, when they have not actually been tested for doping agents.
“Every batch needs to be tested for doping agents as well as adulterants that could cause harm to athletes” said Ellis. Unless Aegis tested the exact lot of a particular product being reviewed, Aegis could never state that a nutritional supplement was free of banned substances.
In the case of Aegis Shield it seems it would be more accurate to give all untested supplements appearing on the app, except those that knowingly contained banned substances, the status “caution”.
Back to Johnson’s question, what is the purpose of the app?
Aegis Shield’s website says the content is designed for educational purposes only and is not an endorsement of any product. An email sent by Griff Gleason, Aegis Sciences Corporation, Regional Sales Manager, Specialty Testing, obtained by ProPlayerInsiders, provides some additional insight. He writes to one supplement manufacturer:
“I am contacting you to provide information about Aegis Certified, our banned-substance certification program. The attached information is an overview of the program, as well as the different analytes that we currently test for.
Aegis Sciences Corporation started over 25 years ago as an anti-doping laboratory. We have built and maintained strong relationships within professional and collegiate sports. We currently work with many professional sports organizations/players associations, such as NFLPA, MLBPA, NASCAR and WWE, as well as 140 Div. 1 colleges/universities. We are trusted to test their athletes for banned-substances, as well as the supplements that they are taking. If you choose Aegis Certified, we will engage in a post-certified marketing campaign that notifies our current clients of your product’s certification. This will provide additional product exposure to a target market for products like yours.”
Aegis sells its certification services to supplement manufactures and then promises to promote those same supplements to a highly coveted consumer group — professional and college athletes.
Moving past the headlines and the fact that Johnson previously tested positive for a banned substance, it does seem reasonable that a person using the app could conclude that a product with an “Okay” rating on Aegis Shield is okay to consume i.e. does not contain a banned substance. Utilizing the app may cause athletes to run afoul of the NFL’s banned substance policy.
“[The app] is what every player uses,” Johnson said. “If you send it into the trainer of your team, all they do is read the labels, they do not test the products because it costs a lot of money to test each individual product.”
“Anything short of testing is a gamble when it comes to dietary supplements and it’s just a matter of time,” said Ellis, “until the same concerns surface for highly fortified foods. Many manufactures in the supplement business also make products that have nutrition facts panels that can provide a false sense of security.” These food products, like traditional supplements, can contain undisclosed banned substances such as Sibutramine.
“Drug tested populations have to have solid policies on how to police these issues verses waiting for them to create controversy,” said Ellis.
While the NFLPA does offer a free testing service to players that request it, the process takes time and the results are only good only for the specific lot number of a particular product and repurchases could require a new test.
The MLB and MLBPA have taken a different proactive approach to athletes use of supplements. They took away the guessing game.
MLB players are advised to use only supplements that are “NSF Certified for Sport” and to contact their club’s medical or training staff before the use of anything not bearing the NSF insignia. Even more important, MLB teams, unlike NFL teams, are allowed to offer and supply NSF-certified supplements to their players directly at the team facility.
NSF’s banned substances testing is completed on a lot-by-lot basis and the manufacturer may not release product into the market until the final test report is released. All products are tested each year for label claims, enabling athletes and other end consumers to know that what’s on the label is in the bottle. NSF conducts the formulation review three times per year for ongoing monitoring, including matching it up to the actual batch record at the production facility.
MLB players (and everyone else) can access lists of NSF Certified for Sport supplements through the NSF website and the NSF Certified for Sport app.
Yes, there’s an app. It doesn’t have a rating system, unclear terms or disclaimers. NSF Certified for Sport lists only supplements that are certified to meet label claims and free of banned substances and other adulterants.
After all, isn’t that the purpose?
Originally published at proplayerinsiders.com.