Furanone di-hydro, when ingested, is transformed into gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, or GHB, which is being studied by the Food and Drug Administration as a possible treatment for narcolepsy but has also gained notoriety as a recreational and date-rape drug. Sold under a variety of brand names (Gugliotta has declined to name the brand he tried), supplements containing furanone di-hydro have been marketed not only as sleeping aids but also as sex enhancers and muscle builders that promote the body's production of human growth hormone. These products are sold over the Internet and at some nutritional-supplement stores. The FDA last year asked companies that make products containing furanone di-hydro to voluntarily recall them, saying that such products had caused at least 19 people to become unconscious or comatose and led to at least one death.
An informal survey by SI revealed no other player who admitted using furanone di-hydro or GHB, but trainers and strength coaches contend that other legal supplements are circulating that could be dangerous if misused. Bucks trainer Mark Pfeil says some NBA players use a Chinese herb called Mahuang. "It's supposed to give you energy," says Pfeil. Mahuang—which can raise blood pressure and cause seizures, strokes and heart attacks, according to the FDA—is not regulated by the FDA because it is an herbal product. Trail Blazers forward Brian Grant regularly buys a supplement called Ripped Fuel, which lists Mahuang as one of its main ingredients.
Pistons strength coach Arnie Kander is a proponent of certain supplements that help protect the joints, and he doles them out to his players in a paper cup before each game, but he takes pain to educate players about the supplements. He says Gugliotta's mishap has given supplements a bad rap. "It's not supplements that are the problem," Kander says. "It's improper use of them."
The NBA and the players association employ an independent panel of three doctors that draws up a list of banned substances each year, but the health effects of many supplements have not been firmly established. "You can't start banning everything you think is bad for you," says deputy commissioner Russ Granik. "We know cholesterol is bad, but we can't tell the panel to eliminate steaks."
The NBA will be approached this week by the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a trade association for the nutritional-supplement industry, whose president and CEO, John Cordaro, has offered to meet with NBA players to educate them on the dangers of misusing supplements. "If these supplements pose any risk to these athletes of adverse reactions, they should know about it ahead of time," Cordaro says.
Many teams say they have informal safeguards in place. Jazz trainer Mike Shimensky sends any supplement brought into his locker room to a medical lab for analysis. Nuggets strength coach Steve Hess says he has tried a preemptive strike, providing his players with multivitamins and minerals "so they don't go to a [nutrition store] and say, 'What should I get?' "
Portland guard Steve Smith, who took ginseng when he was with Atlanta, believes he has the safest plan. "After the Googs thing," Smith says, "I'm done taking anything."
Line of the Week
The Mourning After
Miami center Alonzo Mourning, Jan. 6 versus Houston: 36 minutes, 12-of-15 FG, 4-of-6 FT, 28 points, 9 blocks, 4 rebounds. Two days after saying he took "personal responsibility" for the Heat's embarrassing loss to Vancouver, Mourning made sure the losing streak stopped at one.