USA TODAY investigates risky supplements

5:36 PM, Jul 25, 2013   |    comments
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MCLEAN, Va. (USA Today/WUSA9) - Alison Young is a reporter at USA TODAY who spent months uncovering the track record of Matt Cahill.

In the 30 billion dollar dietary supplement industry, Cahill has cultivated an image as a designer of cutting edge formulas. Over the last dozen years he sold pills and powders for gaining muscle, losing weight, and fueling energy. His current blockbuster pre-work out product, Craze, was named 2012 new supplement of the year.

In an interview with Young, she explains more about Cahill, "He has served time in prison for selling risky diet pills that actually contained a chemical that is used as a pesticide and has been banned from human use. But despite that, he is still in the supplement marketplace and thriving in the business."

Rob Riches, who competes as a natural drug free body builder blames Craze for a positive drug test which forced him to be stripped of a recent British title. The test found an amphetamine-like stimulant in his system. He speaks out about Craze by saying, "This shouldn't continue. These supplements shouldn't be allowed to be sold with hidden ingredients. This is going to haunt me for years to come."

Matt Cahill's current company, Driven Sports, says Riches is wrong to blame their product, and that independent lab tests show there are no chemicals similar to amphetamines in Craze.

Riches argues that,"The impact of failing this drug test because of this stimulant has kept me up at night. There are literally tens of thousands of people who follow me because they believe I am a drug free natural athlete and now they're questioning that."

The US Anti-doping agency says there are tests from a national Swedish laboratory to back up the allegations of amphetamine-like substances in the products.

Craze is by no means the first of Cahil's products under legal scrutiny for the ingredients inside.

Bonnie Hole's 17 year old daughter Leta had taken an intentional overdose of diet pills that day in 2002. Federal investigators later learned that Leta bought them over the internet from an earlier internet busines owned by Cahill, designerlabs.com. The pills contained DNP, a highly toxic chemical insecticide that was briefly used as a weight loss drug in the 1930's with disastrous consequences. It made people go blind.

Hole comments,  "No she didn't know how dangerous it was. She was a child, teenagers do stupid things. She said over and over again, I don't want to die. And she certainly didn't want to be in that kind of pain."

Investigators determined that Cahill falsely claimed he was a landscaper to buy the DNP then worked with a friend to mix it with baking powder and put in capsules for sale. Leta's parents say the heat-generating reaction caused by the large amount of DNP in her system left her screaming in pain; she died 10 hours later.

Leta's father says, "She would have been a candidate to donate organs but the pathologist said there was nothing left. The organs were just shot completely, even her eyes."

For the sale of DNP, Cahill pled guilty to charges for mail fraud and introducing a misbranded drug to the market. He received a two year prison sentence and was released in 2007. He was never directly charged with Leta's death.

But four months after he entered a plea deal in that case, he already had a new blockbuster on the market called Superdrol, which generated income while Cahill did his prison time.

Jareem Gunter was one athlete who took it. As a college baseball player with dreams of the pros, he says he researched the ingredients on Superdrol's label to make sure they were safe and did not violate any NCAA rules. But, it turned out Superdrol was a potent designer steroid and medical journal articles would later document the significant damage it can cause to the liver.

Gunter told Young that he was in a Missouri hospital for about two months and lost over 100 pounds from liver failure. He eventually recovered only to learn that the NCAA had banned him from competition. He lost his scholarship and had to drop out of school. Matt Cahill declined USA Today's request for interviews about his companies and products.

In WUSA9's interview with Young she stresses, "What the supplement industry and FDA advise is that you really need to be checking out who you are buying your supplement from and what is in it. And thats a bit difficult for consumers to really know. Its not like they have an analytical lab in their kitchens."

Jareem Gunter was one athlete who took it. As a college baseball player with dreams of the pros, he says he researched the ingredients on Superdrol's label to make sure they were safe and did not violate any NCAA rules. But, it turned out Superdrol was a potent designer steroid and medical journal articles would later document the significant damage it can cause to the liver.

Jareem Gunter was one athlete who took it. As a college baseball player with dreams of the pros, he says he researched the ingredients on Superdrol's label to make sure they were safe and did not violate any NCAA rules. But, it turned out Superdrol was a potent designer steroid and medical journal articles would later document the significant damage it can cause to the liver.

Jareem Gunter was one athlete who took it. As a college baseball player with dreams of the pros, he says he researched the ingredients on Superdrol's label to make sure they were safe and did not violate any NCAA rules. But, it turned out Superdrol was a potent designer steroid and medical journal articles would later document the significant damage it can cause to the liver.

For more on this story please go o http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/07/25/bodybuilding-supplement-designer-matt-cahill-usa-today-investigation/2568815/