Dimitar Kutrovsky, the Bulgarian tennis player, has just been found guilty of doping and banned for two years for using a banned stimulant 1, 2. The drug in question is 4-methylhexan-2-amine, (otherwise known as methylhexanamine, 1,3 dimethylamylamine, DMAA, DMP, Forthane or Geranamine amongst other sobriquets). In 2010 it earned the moniker “drug of the year” on Ross Tucker’s science of sport web page 3. As noted in my book, at the time it was in danger of becoming the new nandrolone, in that it was a drug that was triggering a spate of positive doping tests at least in part due to its presence, labeled or otherwise, in supplements taken by athletes.
So what is methylhexanamine? Originally trademarked in 1944 as a nasal decongestant, it was repackaged in 2006 as part of a sports supplement by one Patrick Arnold, the same chemist who synthesized the “undetectable” steroid THG that Dwayne Chambers took. Like most decongestants that are taken to relieve cold or flu symptoms methylhexanamine also has stimulant properties. In some parts of the world, such as New Zealand, it has been used recreationally as a party pill.
Methylhexanamine is an ingredient in many products that claim to improve performance. For example Jack3d – the product Kutrovsky took – is aimed at bodybuilders. It is worth noting that no one has shown any performance benefit for methylhexanamine – in fact I am unaware of any scientific performance study at all on this drug. It was originally “marketed” in part due to its supposed similarity to ephedrine, a stimulant that is now available only on prescription due to concerns about its safety. It is worth noting that, unlike methylhexanamine, the performance effects of ephedrine have been studied but are less than impressive.
The wheels seem to be coming off the methylhexanamine train. Like ephedrine the authorities are concerned about its safety. It seems to be able to restrict blood flow centrally, not just peripherally, with a consequent increase in blood pressure 4. It has recently been banned as an ingredient in supplements in New Zealand. In the USA the influential Food and Drug Administration have not banned it outright, but they have called on the manufacturers to prove it is safe 5; this is likely to amount to the same thing, as supplement manufacturers don’t have the resources or expertise to undertake the relevant clinical trials.
So this drug is on the banned list, it has no proven performance benefits, it is potentially harmful to health and is readily detectable by the anti doping agencies. If I was of a humourous bent I would tell all athletes thinking of using it to Jack it in…….
1 Thanks to University of Essex student, Tom Green, for bringing this story to my attention