Depending on the news account, the NBA’s Rashard Lewis failed a performance-enhancing drug test for elevated testosterone levels and/or elevated levels of DHEA, a hormone precursor that has been shown to increase testosterone levels.  Lewis attributes this failed test to the use of an over-the-counter dietary supplement powder that he used to make shakes.

The OTC supplement is one of the oldest excuses in the book and is designed to allow the user to plead ignorance and come across as an innocent and aggrieved victim.  If Lewis really failed a performance-enhancing drug test for this reason we should expect that the name of the product be made public. 

According to Lewis’ story, he used a powder to make shakes and the DHEA was contained in this product.  An Internet search for DHEA supplements yields countless results for DHEA in tablet and capsule form but not in a powder form.  The dosage of DHEA in these supplements range from 5 to 100 milligrams per serving.

Research on the effectiveness of DHEA has been mixed.  DHEA appears to be beneficial for some members of the elderly population with a variety of daily dosages from 25 to 100 mg per day.  One study that gave subjects 100 mg per day saw no increase in lean muscle mass or change in urological parameters.  Other studies have shown DHEA to provide certain benefits.  There are some questions as to the safety of DHEA supplementation.

Despite the fact that DHEA is a precursor to testosterone – it provides the raw materials to produce testosterone and a host of other hormones in the body – there is no understanding as to exactly how it works.

Lewis’ excuse is sketchy for a variety of reasons.  Without knowing the name of the supplement there is no way to fairly assess his story; there is no way to know the amount of DHEA contained in the alleged over-the-counter supplement. 

Research indicates a daily dose of 100 mg of DHEA doesn’t change urological parameters, so it’s reasonable to question Lewis’ excuse that this unnamed powder contained enough DHEA to result in a failed drug test.  It’s suspicious that I haven’t been able to find the type of supplement Lewis claims is responsible for his failed test after doing a basic Google search and checking some of the major supplement web sites.

News reports are that Lewis was flagged for an increased testosterone level but there’s no indication that OTC-style DHEA supplementation can increase testosterone levels to this extent.  Without knowing the parameters of the NBA’s drug testing program – what does the league consider “elevated,” what testosterone/epitestosterone ratio does the league use, at what level is a player considered to have an elevated DHEA level – the Lewis story is incomplete and makes no sense.

In this era of heightened skepticism more details are needed before Lewis’ supplement excuse can be deemed credible.


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