Underground injectable containing arsenic kills bodybuilder
Chemical athletes who buy substances in ampoules and vials on the black market run the risk of their stuff being under-dosed or not containing any active ingredients at all. They also run the risk of obtaining materials that are completely different from what they were after. And, if they are really unlucky, they buy an injectable containing a fatal amount of arsenic. This is what happened to an Australian bodybuilder. Endocrinologists at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Camperdown describe this case study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
The 35-year-old bodybuilder in question worked as a personal trainer. He'd been using all sorts of legal supplements and illegal substances for a decade. During the last three years his testosterone production had virtually stopped, but he was apparently not too bothered about that.
The bodybuilder finally went to a doctor ten days after developing serious symptoms: his skin had turned yellow and was itching, he was nauseous, vomited and had muscle pain, stomach cramps and diarrhoea.
The doctors who saw the bodybuilder thought it was a classic case of liver failure. Because the man had used steroids they suspected that oral steroids had damaged his liver and further tests on the patient seemed to confirm their theory.
The man's liver was enlarged and his blood contained abnormal concentrations of liver enzymes.
But when the doctors looked more closely they found that this was not the whole story. Five months previously the man had gone to another doctor for an examination, at which point there was nothing wrong with his liver.
The bodybuilder had also brought along the substances he'd been using. None of them were notorious for causing liver damage.
The bodybuilder's health continued to decline. The doctors put him on a respirator. They put him on a blood-cleaning machine. The concentration of white blood cells and platelets decreased, and the production of blood cells in his bone marrow plummeted.
As the days passed, the man developed brain abnormalities and his nervous system started malfunctioning. These are symptoms of heavy metal poisoning. An analysis of the bodybuilder's blood finally showed what was happening: the concentration of arsenic was 33 times higher than the medically permitted level.
The doctors tried to get the arsenic out of the bodybuilder's body, but the heavy metal had already caused too much damage. He died two weeks after being admitted to hospital.
The man's dwelling was searched but no source of arsenic poisoning was found. Analysis done in the hospital lab was more successful: the man had had two small bottles of injectable fluid with him and tests revealed arsenic in one of them. What the product was the doctors didn't find out: there was no label on the vial.
Tests to determine active ingredients in the bottle didn't reveal anything either. No active compounds were detected.
J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2013 Dec;98(12):4613-8.
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