Richard Bohlken, South Central athlete and 16th-ranked man at the 2014 CrossFit Games, has been suspended from the 2015 season after testing positive for the banned substance ostarine. Ostarine belongs to a class of chemicals known as SARMs or selective androgen receptor modulators, and is currently undergoing clinical trials for the prevention and treatment of muscular atrophy (muscle wasting), and testosterone replacement therapy. In athletes, Ostarine has been credited for increased lean mass gains, increased strength and endurance, joint healing abilities and many of the benefits of anabolic steroids.
In an interview with CrossFit, Bohlken states that he is a victim of cross-contamination, and that he did not knowingly take ostarine as a performance-enhancing drug (PED). Bohlken, a 26-year-old Paramedic, took to instagram to explain how Ostarine ended up in his system:
“As many of you have already heard, on April 7th I tested positive for Ostarine. I am a victim of cross contamination. The supplement manufacturer that produces Fitnessentials Pre and Post products also mixed and distributed Ostarine for a separate entity. This substance was in the factory and mixed prior to the Pre and Post workout I was distributed. The result of this was my supplement being contaminated and testing positive for a banned substance. I want you all to know that I take full responsibility for what I put into my body. This is a very tough lesson for me. I want to make you all aware so the same thing does not happen to you. I’m the end I am a victim o someone else’s mistake, costing me my quest to get back to the@crossfitgames. Something honestly pursued day in and day out. That is something only I have to live with as I prepare to return to the Crossfit Games in 2016. I ask for continued support through this situation. It is very important to me that something positive comes out of this. Please be protective and aware of what you put into your body.”
Despite FitnEssentials (Bohlken’s sponsor) taking full responsibility for the situation, Bohlken has been disqualified from competing in the 2015 season. Following the 2013 CrossFit Games, CrossFit HQ instituted year-round drug testing (including out of competition testing) with blood and urine samples. Every individual athlete who competes at the CrossFit Games in Carson, California, has been tested and many of the top athletes are tested several times per year. As is stated in CrossFit’s 2015 Drug-Testing Policy, “any athlete who tests positive for a banned substance or who refuses to submit to a required drug test shall be subject to any one or a combination of the sanctions below:
-Disqualification from that event.
-Forfeit or required return of any prizes, awards, or money from that competition.
-Suspension from participating in future CrossFit-sanctioned events. The length of this suspension will be determined by CrossFit Inc. and may include a lifetime ban from all CrossFit-sanctioned or sponsored events.”
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As of writing, it appears that Bohlken’s suspension is restricted to the 2015 season only. This is likely due to Bohlken’s statements—supported by FitnEssentials—that he was a victim of cross-contamination, and did not knowingly take ostarine as a PED.
However, CrossFit HQ has been quick to point out that this is not the first time supplements have been responsible for failed drug tests in the CrossFit Games. “Multiple athletes have been disqualified since testing began, most notably in 2010, when CrossFit New England’s team finished in second place before having its medals revoked when two of its athletes tested positive for a banned substance that came from an over-the-counter supplement.”
With Bohlken’s suspension, competitive CrossFit athletes need to do their homework to ensure that they follow the TUE procedures outlined in the Drug-Testing Policy, and make sure that the supplements they take are not tainted with banned substances. Of course, this is far easier said than done. CrossFit points to a study conducted by the International Olympic Committee in 2011, which found that of 634 supplements worldwide, nearly 15 percent of them contained substances not listed on the product label, but which would have resulted in a positive drug test. “In the United States, the percentage of supplements that were tainted with banned substances reached almost 19 percent.”
Bohlken is the first big-name individual athlete that has been suspended from competition, and after finishing 7th in the South Central region during the Open he will not be allowed to compete at the Regionals.
Picture courtesy of Richard Bohlken’s Instagram