When Jared Graves and Richie Rude confirmed to us last year that they'd tested positive for the banned substances higenamine and oxilofrine
, they suggested it came from a supplement—but were advised by their lawyer not to specify which supplement until the case was resolved. Many readers pointed the finger at Jared & Richie's supplement sponsor, Ryno Power, who denied any responsibility.
After our initial story broke, we continued digging. An ingredient called synephrine was removed from Ryno Power's Gladiator pre-workout a few years ago, which is noteworthy because synephrine is related
to methylsynephrine, AKA oxilofrine. Could synephrine somehow cause a positive test for methylsynephrine? Several experts have suggested to us that's not possible: they're distinctly different compounds, act in different ways, and there's no documentation to suggest that the synephrine can become methylated within your body.
What about simple human error though? With such similar names, could the ingredients have been mislabeled or substituted? We reached out to Ryno Power Founder Ryan McCarthy for some answers.Note: Ryno Power is an advertiser with Pinkbike. The interview has been edited for clarity.
Hey Ryan, the riders were advised not to say where they think the substances came from publicly, so let's cut to the chase on that. Have either of the banned substances, oxilofrine or higenamine, ever been ingredients in any of your products?McCarthy:
No. Neither of those have ever been anywhere near any Ryno Power product.
If not from your products, do you know what caused Jared and Richie to have banned substances in their systems?
So from what I understand, there's an over-the-counter drink that they bought and it listed it as an ingredient in that drink. And they had been known to drink that drink from time to time.
Is the drink Alphamine?McCarthy:
Yes, I thought that was the name of the drink that Jared was taking, the one with the pictures of him in Vital.Ed. Note: Ryan is referring to photos that came out from the 2016 Vital MTB photo set in Chile with Graves taking a supplement called Alphamine, from another supplement brand. It did contain one of the banned substances, higenamine. There's nothing that suggests Richie was also using Alphamine.
Higenamine wasn't specifically named as a banned substance by WADA at the time, but it is a beta 2 agonist, which were (and still are) banned. If Jared continued to use it knowingly or unknowingly then that could have been the source of one of the banned substances.
Does Ryno Power have agreements with athletes that they don't take other brands' supplements? Is that a concern for you?McCarthy:
Our agreements with the athletes tend to vary, for instance, when we have an athlete like Jared Graves or Richie Rude and they have an existing energy drink sponsor. We have a ton of respect for Red Bull, we have a ton of respect for Monster, and a ton of respect for Rockstar. These are the companies that are helping these guys buy new homes and buy new cars and allowing their wives to stay home with the kids. So when that comes around, we definitely yield to the energy drink sponsors. We realize they're paying the big salaries and that these guys are gonna have to drink that from time to time, you're gonna have to hold that up on the podium.
We do ask our athletes not use other products, specifically to make sure that the message is clear, that in order to perform at the level that they perform at they use Ryno Power alongside their energy drinks to succeed. If they use something else, we don't have anything where we can tell them no or you're not allowed to use it. We leave it up to them, but when things like this happen it's certainly frustrating for us. I hope that our athletes will remember that if they can exclusively use Ryno Power, then they know 100%, without question, that they will pass every single drug test they're given.
I look at Aaron Gwin and I look at Amaury Pierron and I look at Myriam Nicole. We've literally won almost every single downhill championship in the last five to six years. Imagine how many times those guys have been tested. Those guys are taking exclusively Ryno Power products. They weren't taking anything else, and they've passed every single test.
Some of the riders that Ryno Power sponsors.
Furthermore, you have the motocross athletes that we sponsor, like Cooper Webb, and Aaron Plessinger, and Colt Nichols, and Justin Cooper, and Adam Cianciarulo, and Austin Forkner, and all of these guys who are passing drug test after drug test after drug test while using Ryno Power on a daily basis. And then Richie Rude and Jared Graves [tested positive] and people somehow think that Ryno Power made a mistake. We don't make mistakes.
Let's jump back a little bit, have you guys done any internal testing or reviews since our original report was published?McCarthy:
We followed up with our manufacturing facility and we reminded them of the magnitude of their responsibility to follow all of the guidelines that they are required to follow, not just from Ryno Power, but from the NSF. Ryno Power chose early on, 2012, that we were only going to use NSF-certified GMP facilities, and what that means is that the biggest, scariest sanctioning body, the NSF, you pay them to come into your manufacturing facility two times a year, and turn your whole world upside-down, go through every single paper, and every single file, and make sure every single batch that you made followed all the rules of the NSF. That includes the identity testing, the micros testing, the label testing, all of these things along the way, which are the way I can sit here with you right now and guarantee unequivocally that there's no way banned substances have ever been in Ryno Power.
Have any cycling officials approached Ryno Power about testing your product in relation to the case?McCarthy:
No, none have approached us.
The original formulation of your Gladiator pre-workout listed synephrine, which is related to the methylsynephrine that they tested positive for. Is it possible that somebody got mixed up along the line and used this synthetic, methylated version of synephrine instead of the citrus-derived version, and the label was just wrong?McCarthy:
No, that's literally impossible. We do what's called identity testing on every single ingredient, so even on that very original batch when we first released Gladiator, all the ingredients get shipped to the facility, and then they come with their own certificate of analysis saying it is what it is, it's this color, it's this odor, blah, blah, blah. Then they send it out to a reputable third party and they do a couple different tests on it. They do identity testing to make sure that is what they say it is. They do micros, which is like testing it for salmonella or E. coli.
All raw materials are coded, so they're followed all the way down the line, they know what is what. Then they go back and do micro and identity markers to confirm the input. So to accidentally use one version instead of another is impossible.
What lead to the decision to remove synephrine?
At the time we launched Gladiator, synephrine was not even on the watch list by WADA. Immediately upon seeing it on the watch list, the very next batch, and we produce this stuff almost every three months, it was taken out.
Jared and Richie weren't Ryno Power athletes when we did the first batch. They came on probably around batch number 11 or 12, so we were already ten batches past the batch that ever had synephrine in it. And as far as I understand, there's no possible way for synephrine to become methylsynephrine, but I have to refer to my formulator to answer that scientifically.
So the only way anyone could have gotten the version of Gladiator with synephrine in the last year or two would have been buying old stock from a retailer. Would they be buying product off the shelf anyway?McCarthy:
No. These guys get whatever they need from us.
Gladiator was the supplement that Jared was taking?McCarthy:
Well, Jared uses our protein, our hydration fuel, he uses our electrolyte pills, our recovery pills, and our Gladiator Pre-Workout.
Without doing the full marketing presentation, what would I notice if I took Gladiator before I dropped in?McCarthy:
So one that people would typically want to question would be the pre-workout, but I'll get to that one last. The hydration fuel and the protein, the recovery capsules, the electrolyte capsules, all of those products are almost 100% about the nutrition aspect, getting the right carbs, the right minerals, the right sodium in your body at the right time.
Then with the pre-workout, we use the same mentality, using pure, long-used, and proven ingredients, combining them in a way that it works really well. The Gladiator would be the item that people would look at, probably a critical piece of someone's performance, because of the two different kinds of caffeine, beta-alanine, and taurine, a lot of ingredients that are found in common energy drinks. But when you put them together in the right mix, they perform really well.
The first thing that you would notice would be, you'd feel your eyes open a little, you'd feel like you're really getting focused, like you're getting in the zone. You would feel like you are super-motivated, like you wanna get off the couch, and you wanna get going. And you'd have a really great level of energy and then when you're in, and once you get to the gym you would feel like you hit your second wind right away, and then you'd power through a pretty nice workout. That's a combination of really good ingredients all working together.
What you're describing sounds beneficial for enduro racing. Do you think a lot of gravity mountain bike athletes are taking pre-workouts before they drop in?McCarthy:
Yeah. I mean, because I sponsor about half of 'em. I think at that level, the same concept of buying the best tires or buying the best chain or the best rims or having the lightest frame.
Can athletes perform at that pro level without taking supplements?McCarthy:
That would be like asking if Aaron Gwin could win on a Huffy... I don't know. Gwin trains super hard, Amaury trains super hard. These guys are amazing athletes, it's not just Ryno Power, it's their diet, it's their trainers, it's the level of commitment that they're willing to make to their sport. Aaron, for instance, I've known him since 2010, he's so dedicated and so committed to what he does, it's just amazing. So there's a lot of things that go into them being successful, not just the supplements.
But I think at this level, in this day and age, if you're not using a supplement like Ryno Power, then you're going to not be as good as the guy who's lining up next to you or who's coming on the next run after you.
In the reaction to the original story, a number of people suggested that athletes shouldn't be taking any supplements in order to safeguard their careers. Whether it's tainted supplements, or missing fine print, or missing a rule update, it seems risky. What would you say to that?McCarthy:
I would totally understand why they might initially think that way. But I would say that there's a big difference between a company making some random drink on a shelf, that doesn't care if you're gonna use a supplement, you know?
There's a couple of my competitors that I really respect, Skratch Labs, Hammer Nutrition, you know... When you're at the level of those companies and Ryno Power, you don't have any benefit to breaking rules. We spend a lot of money to make sure we follow the rules. You just put the best products you can out.
So I would tell people to stay away from supplements that you never heard of or that just burst on the scene, but when a company has been around for 10 years and passed hundreds of WADA tests, through countless athletes, at that point I think you can trust if you wanna use it, it'll help your performance.
In all of this Jared Graves continues to fight cancer
, and we wish him all the best in a battle that's infinitely more important than bike racing.Previously:
• An Update on Richie Rude & Jared Graves' Failed EWS Drug Test
(March 12, 2019)
• Exclusive: Richie Rude & Jared Graves Failed Drug Test at EWS France
• Higenamine & Oxilofrine: What Are the Banned Substances that Jared Graves & Richie Rude Tested Positive For?
• Interview: Jared Graves Comments on Failed Drug Test
• Interview: Richie Rude Comments on Failed Drug Test