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 DENVER (AP) -A designer drug it most certainly is not.
Bumetanide, the diuretic that a handful of NFL players allegedly have been using, has been on the lengthy list of drugs banned from sports for decades.
Banned for so long, in fact, that when news of the doping cases broke, a handful of the nation's top anti-doping experts were sent scrambling to their dusty archives and the Internet for quick refreshers on exactly how the drug works. Once they were reminded, they couldn't help but wonder how a substance so easy to detect and dangerous if misused could wind up in the systems of high-paid athletes.
``I'd love to know,'' said Don Catlin, a renowned expert who ran America's first anti-doping lab. ``But that's why the first thing I thought was, 'They take supplements all the time. Every athlete does. Maybe it's a bad batch of supplements.'''
And indeed, the same week Catlin made that guess, Saints offensive lineman Jamar Nesbit was filing a lawsuit claiming he had taken a diet pill that had been improperly spiked with Bumetanide.
sible for everything that goes in their body. To help them make choices, the league contracts with a not-for-profit company, NSF, that tests supplements and gives its seal of approval if they are found not to contain drugs on the league's banned list. Currently, EAS products are the only ones certified in the NFL program through NSF, though the company's work goes well beyond the league.
Often, players who get busted for violating the NFL steroids policy claim they were victims of a tainted supplement. Lori Bestervelt, the senior vice president of NSF, said there is virtually no chance a supplement could be accidentally tainted with Bumetanide.
``It could happen, but then again we could all be struck by lightning three times, too,'' Bestervelt said. ``But we do test for it. We've never had any supplement come up positive.''
One of the likely ways a supplement could be tainted with a drug is if the same company makes both products and, for instance, one product gets tainted by another on the factory floor. But Bestervelt said she hasn't dealt with a supplement company that also made Bumetanide.
``It would be odd that it would find its way into a supplement'' unintentionally, she said. ``It's a prescription drug, not one you see a lot, not a popular prescription drug and used only under some pretty severe circumstances.''
idney called the loop of Henle, which is where the body reabsorbs water and sodium from what will eventually become urine. The diuretic changes the way the loop handles sodium, in effect exchanging sodium in urine for potassium. The end result from taking the drug is that the user urinates a great deal more, which leaves that person very vulnerable to dehydration. The athlete also loses potassium, which is key to many body functions - most notably, to keeping the heart beating.
The drug is almost exclusively prescribed to control swelling for patients with heart failure, kidney disease and people with swelling of the extremities.
Athletes have been known to use it for quick weight loss - such as a boxer trying to make weight or a football player trying to control his weight - or to increase urine production and, thus, mask the use of steroids.
``The big thing that stands out to me is that if you took it for an extended period of time, you could end up with a serious medical condition,'' said Larry Bowers, head scientist at the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. ``I have no idea where these players are getting this advice or if they're getting a bad supplement. But if you're using a prescription drug like this as part of an over-the-counter dietary supplement, it's illegal and dangerous.''
20 years. And though he can't remember a specific case involving that drug, diuretic use is nothing new in the world of Olympic sports. Wrestlers, boxers, even weight-concious rhythmic gymnasts, have been suspected and caught using different forms.
Caffeine is the best-known and most widely used diuretic, though it's hardly as potent as a prescription strength pill.
New Orleans running back Deuce McAllister has acknowledged that he is among the players being investigated, although he stopped short of saying he had tested positive. Houston Texans long snapper Bryan Pittman was identified by his attorney as being investigated. Players from the Vikings have also been reported to be part of the investigation.
A person familiar with the case told The Associated Press on Monday that, in all, six to eight players were under investigation by the NFL.
Ed Wyszumiala, general manager of NSF's certification program, said the odds of players from different parts of the country all getting accidentally tainted supplements are slim.
``Normally, if it was a contaminated supplement, you'd have one or two people citing it from one team and that would be it,'' Wyszumiala said.
without getting caught.
``I guess nothing surprises me these days,'' said Travis Tygart, the CEO of USADA. ``You can't draw any conclusions. But certainly, it's not surprising that some athletes will go to lengths, whatever they are, if it's easy to obtain, inexpensive and effective and they don't think they're going to get caught with it.''

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