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Chemist's New Product Contains Hidden Substance

So is ephedrine. Though it is legal to sell naturally occurring compounds in dietary supplements and ephedrine is found in plants, the FDA determined in 2001 that ephedrine produced synthetically could not be considered a legal dietary ingredient.

Daniel and Arnold did not respond to questions as to why methylhexaneamine was not specifically mentioned on the label. They also did not respond to a query about whether they notified the FDA before marketing the product or whether the methylhexaneamine was produced synthetically. The Post sent several e-mails to and left telephone messages with both.

Arnold's sales of the product provide further evidence of the difficulty of lawmakers' and sports officials' attempts to crack down on performance-enhancing drugs in sports. It also highlights the grave problems plaguing the dietary supplement industry since a 1994 act that was intended to make herbal remedies and vitamin products more readily available left the industry virtually unregulated.

The Post reported last fall that six designer steroids were being sold in dietary supplements. Several of the manufacturers discontinued the products, and the FDA issued several warning letters. The FDA oversees the industry, but it does not examine products before they go to market unless companies submit requests to market new dietary ingredients.

Methylhexaneamine is reminiscent of the first steroid Arnold admitted designing for the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (Balco), which federal authorities said provided performance-enhancing drugs to professional athletes in football, baseball and track and field. That steroid, known as norbolethone, also had been the subject of decades-old research, but when the research was abandoned, the substance effectively was forgotten. Because of its obscurity, it wasn't specifically banned when steroids were outlawed in the United States in 1990. Before the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Arnold resurrected it and distributed it secretly to athletes. Once federal authorities became aware of it, it was made illegal.

Arnold claims on the Ergopharm Web site that AMP gives dieters and athletes an alternative to ephedrine with fewer negative side effects. AMP has "adrenaline properties" and is "the most powerful weight tool you can purchase without a prescription," Arnold says on the site.

Ergopharm is a division of Proviant Technologies Inc., in Champaign, Ill., which manufactures bulk nutraceutical ingredients and provides contract manufacturing services, according to Ergopharm's Web site. Arnold, the founder of Ergopharm, is a vice president at Proviant. When reached by phone, Proviant's owner, Ramlakhan Boodram, declined an interview request.

The Post obtained a copy of the Chinese paper Daniel cited to defend the company's claim that Geranamine was a natural substance. The paper, which came from an engineering institute in Guiyang, China, claims that there are more than 40 constituents of geranium oil, and that methylhexaneamine is one of them, making up less than 1 percent of the substance (0.66 percent).

Besides the Chinese research paper, The Post could find no other modern research on methylhexaneamine. It was studied in the 1940s and 1950s. Catlin could not find any research indicating oral administration in humans. It is unclear whether the substance is toxic, addictive or has other harmful side effects. The 1944 patent states that methylhexaneamine has fewer side effects than amphetamines and ephedrine, but the FDA has not evaluated it.

"This stuff ought not be out there," Catlin said. "It's dangerous material."

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