Holly Holm shocked the sports world Sunday when she KO’d the previously undefeated and seemingly unstoppable Ronda Rousey at UFC 193, earning the bantamweight title. In the aftermath, she received a couple of hearty shout-outs from one of her top sponsors, Texas-based Intel Pharma:
A photo posted by Intel Pharma (@intelpharma) on Nov 15, 2015 at 8:17pm PST
The reason this endorsement is noteworthy is that Intel Pharma, which features Holm prominently on its website, has a history of selling illegal performance-enhancing drugs.
There’s no evidence Holm has ever taken any banned or illegal substances, but it’s an odd business move for a professional athlete to openly associate and have a sponsorship deal with a company that sells or has sold such substances.
Intel Pharma has sold at least two products — Ligandrol and Ostadrol — that contain SARMs (selective androgen receptor modulators), which are anabolic ingredients banned by both the World Anti-Doping Agency and the US Anti-Doping Agency. SARMs are not steroids, but they mimic steroid-like effects in more focused, selective parts of the body. They’re illegal to sell as supplements under FDA guidelines. Another two products, Ibutamoren HGH and Clenadrol, contain different banned substances. Aside from Clenadrol, which the company stands by, Intel Pharma says they stopped selling all these products months ago.
Taking money and sponsorship from a company that sold banned PEDs would open Holm up to scrutiny and potentially harm her newly valuable brand. Business Insider made multiple attempts to reach Holm’s camp but did not receive comment on the issue.
The UFC said in a prepared statement that Holm has always tested clean:
As independent contractors, UFC athletes can accept endorsements and sponsorships from supplement companies that do not conflict with their contractual obligations at official UFC events. UFC has provided athletes with extensive education on the UFC anti-doping program, and extensive education on the dietary supplement industry. UFC athletes are both aware that they are liable for any substances put into their body, whether knowingly or unknowingly, and still must adhere to the requirements set forth by the UFC Anti-Doping Policy.
Holly Holm has provided five separate samples for testing since the inception of the program on July 1. Of the samples that have returned results, all of those results were clean.
Most of Intel Pharma’s banned products are no longer available on the company’s online store, but they are available via third-party sellers, and Intel Pharma has repeatedly touted the products in advertisements and promotions on social media as recently as September.
In one such promotion on Instagram, they bragged: “The highest purity SARM products that you will find ANYWHERE in the world, at the highest doses.”
Landon Suggs, CEO of Intel Pharma, says his company hasn’t sold any products containing SARMs in months. He chalks the scenario up to a mistake in judgment he made as a new CEO who took bad recommendations on what to sell in this “very shady industry.”
“We probably started selling SARMs 4-to-5 months ago, if I had to guess. We sold the ones we had but never ordered them again,” Suggs said in an interview. Intel Pharma now prohibits third parties from selling their products online and Suggs says they’re committed to helping clear SARMs out of the supplement industry.
The FDA says SARMs qualify as prescription drugs and pose “significant potential safety risks to consumers who take them without the supervision of a practitioner licensed by law to administer such drugs.”
Suggs, a marine who started the company this spring, says Intel Pharma engaged in a sponsorship deal with Holm’s team a couple weeks before the fight with Ronda Rousey was announced in August. He declined to say how much the company paid for the deal, but he emphasised that they only sent Holm protein and amino acids — completely legal supplements.
“The truth is, Holly is a great girl and she never did anything wrong,” Suggs said. “We probably never should have brought out SARMs. That was a mistake on our end and has nothing to do with her.”
The company has released a full statement (see below).
Two other products sold by Intel Pharma contained banned ingredients. Ibutamoren is a “growth hormone secretagogue” — a chemical that causes the body to create more growth hormone and increases appetite and sometimes is lumped in with SARMs.
Clenadrol, still for sale on Intel Pharma’s website, contains DMAA (1,3 Dimethylamylamine), an amphetamine-like substance that promotes fat loss.
The FDA has cracked down on companies hawking DMAA it recent years following several deaths and a rash of injuries and illnesses associated with the substance.
“FDA has warned companies known to be using DMAA in dietary supplements that those products containing this ingredient are illegal,” the agency said in a 2013 statement.
Suggs stands by Clenadrol and disputes that there is anything wrong with how they’re selling it.
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