x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Anti-doping chief calls for fitness supplement to be banned in UAE

Jack3d, which has been linked to the deaths of three people internationally, is widely available in fitness and nutrition stores across the country.

DUBAI // A performance enhancing fitness supplement used by bodybuilders to train harder should be banned, according to the head of the UAE's anti-doping watchdog.

Jack3d, which has been linked to the deaths of three people internationally, is widely available in fitness and nutrition stores across the country.

It has already been effectively banned in a number of European countries as well as New Zealand and Australia and drug administrators in the US have warned that the ingredient dimethylamylamine (DMAA) poses a potential health risk.

Now experts say it should be taken off shop shelves here too.

"We have banned a couple of athletes when they took Jack3d because it contains a banned doping stimulate," said Abdulaziz Al Muhairi, general secretary of the UAE Anti-Doping Committee.

"In fact, due to certain ingredients contained in the product it should not be sold in the UAE due to the health risks it poses to people."

That ingredient is DMAA, used for fat loss and boosting energy.

"The trouble is that many of these supplements are not classed as drugs but food so they don't undergo the same kind of tests before going on sale," said Mr Al Muhairi.

"I would like to see the Ministry of Health look into this."

He said he was unaware of any cases of people suffering serious health problems after taking the supplement in the UAE.

The US department of defence banned the sale of Jack3d on military bases after the deaths in 2011 of two soldiers who had been using the supplement. In April last year, the food and drug administration in the US warned that DMAA could increase people's blood pressure, potentially causing shortness of breath or heart attacks.

In January, a British coroner looking into the death of Claire Squires, 30, at last year's London Marathon said that on the balance of probabilities, DMAA together with extreme physical exertion caused a heart attack and her death. She had taken Jack3d before the run.

Despite safety concerns, Jack3d is the most popular pre-workout supplement on the market in the Emirates. A number of outlets at the Dubai Mall were sold out of Jack3d.

"Although it's banned in Europe and the US it's perfectly legal here," said a member of staff at a supplement shop in the mall. "At the moment it's sold out but it's by far the most popular one we sell."

A member of staff at a pharmacy said it was unlikely they would consider stocking Jack3d again due to the potential health risks.

"We may sell a version of Jack3d if DMAA is taken out."

A staff member at a nutrition store said she advised customers to follow the recommended dosage.

"It's fine as long as you take one scoop before a workout," she said. "The problems arise because people take two or three scoops and that can cause heart palpitations."

Zaid Gerber, a fitness instructor based in Dubai, said he advises his clients against taking the supplement after feeling the effects first-hand.

"I decided to take it myself after a friend said it was too strong for him. I took a serving in the afternoon and trained amazingly and felt a real buzz," he said.

However, 20 minutes after his workout, he noticed he had a stronger and faster heartbeat. "Unfortunately there was no come down afterwards and I couldn't sleep for about 24 hours," he said.

Corey Oliver, CEO of the Original Fitness Company, said Jack3d is popular with bodybuilders. "It gives you an intense focus and people say they can lift more or push themselves farther," he said.

But he said a well balanced diet, good sleep and drinking plenty of water was safer and more beneficial.

"If someone really wants a pre-workout boost then they are probably better off having an espresso beforehand as the caffeine is just as good and it is natural."

No one at the Ministry of Health could be contacted for comment and Jack3d manufacturer USPlabs did not respond to a request for comment.

nhanif@thenational.ae