Marcel Reece attributes positive test to internal chemical reaction to permitted supplement


Pro Bowl fullback Marcel Reece recently absorbed a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s PED policy. In a statement issued to PFT, Reece explains that the violation resulted from an internal chemical reaction that happened after he took a supplement that isn’t banned by the league.

The full text of Reece’s statement, written personally by the player and not by the NFL Players Association, appears below.

“During my eight-year career in the National Football League I have taken extreme pride in representing myself, my family, my team and our fan base to the highest of standards. I have never, nor would I ever, compromise my integrity as a man or player in the NFL — and I would never jeopardize my leadership in the game that I love so much.

“I have NEVER, and would NEVER, ingest any banned substance that would result in a failed drug test. What I did consume was a natural plant root extract by the name of ‘Umcka,’ which is a completely safe substance that is clearly legal by NFL policy, in terms of being acceptable to consume. What I didn’t know is that this plant root, once ingested in the human body, converts to the substance ‘metylhexanamine,’ which is a banned substance by NFL standards.

“Every single teammate, coach and friend of mine can tell you that I take extreme pride in taking care of my body, and I have worked incredibly hard every year maintain myself to performing at the highest level. I don’t believe in short-cuts; I have worked extremely hard my entire life and I would never consider any substance to gain a competitive advantage.

“As the NFL stated in their final judgment of our appeal: ‘The NFL does not contend that Mr. Reece intentionally violated the policy, and it is clear the Mr. Reece did not intend to do so. . . .’

“Let me be clear here — the Arbitrator, the NFL and I all agree, and have concluded, that I have never ingested ANY banned substance whatsoever, for any reason, especially not to enhance my performance. Unfortunately, due to the NFL’s strict liability policy and a completely flawed system there is nothing I can do to change this unfair outcome.

“I have fought this decision as hard and aggressively as the system allows to chemically prove how this happened, and to defend my innocence. I assure you all that this natural, chemical reaction was far beyond my knowledge prior to appeal research. To those who know and love me, thank you for your support. Thank you to all Raider fans, my fans, Oakland Raiders ownership and management, my coaches, my teammates, and my wife and family for their unflinching love and support.”

It’s a strong statement from Reece, much more comprehensive and detailed than the standard, boilerplate, “I took I supplement that I didn’t know had banned substances in it” explanation. And it comes at a time when the league’s PED policy permits the NFL to rebut the player, if incorrect information is being disseminated.

The broader message to all players, based on Reece’s experience, is to tread lightly with Umcka. If Reece’s explanation is accurate, no other player should be taking it, and the NFL and NFLPA should be working together to warn all players to avoid it.

38 responses to “Marcel Reece attributes positive test to internal chemical reaction to permitted supplement

  1. I am waiting for the first athlete to say, “I did it, I took a performance enhancing drug, to improve my performance”. Everybody denies, even after they have been suspended and factual evidence comes out.

  2. Just one question that Mr. Reece did not address – why did he ingest the substance that he DID ingest? Now, he doesn’t have to address that question, but not doing so makes me wonder if his so very eloquent statement only convinces me that he knows how to sound truly surprised with this allegation, and nothing more. No evidence that he took the substance for performance advantage – and no evidence that he DIDN’T take the substance for performance advantage. All the rest is noise.

  3. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and glad I did.

    Strong straight forward statement. Balls in your court NFL

  4. Geez…let the play already. The rules stipulate that no player can ingest or inject and banned substance right? He didn’t, let it go! Rules without conscious don’t do anyone any service.

  5. I believe Reece’s statement. Also, it’s nice to hear a player articulate, in his own words, as well as he did.

  6. Note to self: Add “Umcka” to the excuse list starting with “Adderall”

    Is it just me, or does “Umcka” sound like it tastes worse than brussels sprouts. You know, one of those things fraternity brothers try to get pledges to eat.

  7. Don’t care how he said it, what he said he took or how smart his agent and pr person made him sound. He’s guilty and that’s it. He failed! Hasn’t anyone learned a thing from Ryan Braun other than Sherman the cheater?!?!?!

  8. This really isn’t that hard. He took a supp with DMAA in it. The stuff has been banned for some time now. If he would have stuck with taking drugs prescreened and allowed by the league, this would be a non-issue. Serve your suspension and stop trying to sound so innocent or ignorant to the rules.

  9. Excuses excuses excuses. They never did it, and everyone always makes some kind of excuse when it happens. Maybe the invisible man slipped him the illegal substance….

  10. That defense actually just worked in court.

    A woman with a 0.33 BAC claimed her body processed starch into alcohol and the french fries she had eaten fermented in her stomach.

    She was acquitted.

  11. DMAA and similar derivatives have been studied as nasal decongestants and cold remedies, mostly in the 1940s believe it or not and forgotten about for some time. They have enjoyed a renassaince of sort over the last decade as a stimulant which works on similar pathways in the body as ephedrine. DMAA has since been banned by most major sports and international competitions. However it is still found in many over the counter sups marketed as “herbal” for energy / focus etc. I don’t personally care if NFL players take stuff like this or Adderal. Ban steroids and HGH, but the list is a little too long.

  12. For all the idiots out there screaming hes guilty, umcka is sold at walgreens and every other store as a natural way to shorten the duration of a cold…just like other cough drops or remedies we’ve all tried. The league acknowledged he was trying to cheat. Get off your high horse losers, a bunch of al bundys on here, hatin cuz they never had this guys ability

  13. Yeah, yeah, and all the inmates on death row are innocent, too.

    Reese needs to shut up and take his medicine, er…. punishment.

    And if anyone thinks that Marcel Reese wrote the statement attributed to him, I have a bridge to sell you.

  14. Reese will probably name his next kid, “Umcka”.

    Seriously, I am sick and tired of these guys making excuses. There is no excuse for ever testing positive for anything banned by the NFL.
    Because if the player takes anything at all, he automatically assumes the responsibility for taking it.

    So have a nice winter, Marcel. And watch what you put in your body.

  15. “Auto-Brewery Syndrome”

    Look it up. It is a real thing.

    Certain people’s bodies just process things differently.

  16. kd75 says:
    Dec 29, 2015 8:20 PM

    “Auto-Brewery Syndrome”

    Look it up. It is a real thing.

    Certain people’s bodies just process things differently.
    It’s the reason some women wear a certain perfume, and it smells to me like bug spray. Not excusing Reece, though. He doesn’t see enough action to cheat.

  17. Umcka (Pelargonium sidoides) is a geranium plant native to South Africa. Long used in traditional African medicine, umcka (short for “umckaloabo”) has recently become popular in other parts of the world, particularly in treatment of respiratory problems.

    Uses for Umcka

    Umcka is typically used to treat these respiratory issues:
    •the common cold
    •sore throat

    Just Google it. It’s sold all over the place like some have posted and is a common cold remedy. Maybe the NFL should publish a list of OTC remedies and such that ARE legal to use no matter what your drug test comes back with?

  18. That’s why you don’t take natural health products unless you’re absolutely positive of whats in them (which you almost certainly can’t be, because they have many different sources and are generally unregulated).

    The excuse is a weak one. By that logic everyone could take designer pro-drugs (that themselves have no pharmacological properties) but get metabolized into active performance enhancing molecules, and then attempt to claim innocence.

  19. cotroutslayer, no offense but googling the product is probably the logic that Reece used to determine it was ok. Point being, the information you find on the internet or even on te label of many of these natural health products is unreliable at best and completely false at worst.

    If you’re going to put a supplement in your body you’re rolling the dice, everytime, regardless if you have millions on the line or not.

  20. “For all the idiots out there screaming hes guilty, umcka is sold at walgreens and every other store as a natural way to shorten the duration of a cold…just like other cough drops or remedies we’ve all tried. ”

    So is pseudoephedrine, but I doubt it’s a legal supplement in the NFL.

  21. I believe him. I don’t think he was trying to do anything wrong.

    But I was a pro athlete, I wouldn’t take ANYTHING that wasn’t prescribed to me. There can be no excuse.

  22. loserjet says: Dec 29, 2015 8:35 PM

    Never see anyone get couch and say yes I did it

    That’s where your wrong, Antonio Gates of the Chargers admitted to taking a banned suplement by mistake because he did not check the list put out by the league. Its rare, but some do man up.

  23. so let me gets this right. The NFL provides players the products that are approved by them, but then suspends you when you use them…….makes complete sense.

    I am never shocked to hear players are suspended for PED’s, but have to admit I was bit shocked to see that it was Reeece. Well for that matter, the Raiders have been squeaky clean ever since McKenzie took over. Seems like the Raiders have put an emphasis on off field issues, and signing high moral characters type players.

    I think the league needs to step up on and take ownership on this one, not only for Reece, but for any player who tries to take supplements that the league has approved.

  24. drtharrison says:
    Dec 30, 2015 5:25 AM
    I believe him. I don’t think he was trying to do anything wrong.

    But I was a pro athlete, I wouldn’t take ANYTHING that wasn’t prescribed to me. There can be no excuse.
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    Prescribed!!!!!! those are drugs….this guy was using an over the counter supplements approved by the league. I would bet money on it that it was a pre-workout supplement…something like C4, N.O. Xplode, Assault, etc….

  25. According the the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency dietary supplements have been a problem for athletes all over the world because they inadvertently ingest banned substances without knowing it. This is from the USADA, a warning to athletes about supplements:

    “Beware – Your Supplement Could Cause a Positive Test”

    “This advisory comes after multiple announcements that athletes around the world have tested positive for methylhexaneamine, a prohibited stimulant. Methylhexaneamine is known by many names including 1,3-dimethylamylamine (DMAA), dimethylpentylamine (DMP) 4-methylhexan-2-amine, Geranamine, and geranium oil, extract, or stems and leaves. Many products sold as dietary supplements openly list this substance on their labels, such as Jack3d (USP Labs), Lipo-6-Black and Hemo-Rage Black (Nutrex), Spriodex (Gaspari Nutrition), F-10 (Advanced Genetics), Clear Shot (E-Pharm), 1.M.R. (BPI Sports) and many others.

    While it is not known whether the above products actually contain methylhexaneamine, athletes should steer clear of products that advertise to contain these substances.

    Also, if “geranium” is listed as an ingredient on the label of a supplement, be advised that the product may contain synthetic methylhexaneamine. We have also seen instances where a supplement actually contained ingredients that were not listed on the label. In some cases, these non-labeled substances may trigger a positive test.

    The ongoing problem of dietary supplement mislabeling continues to create a risky environment for athletes. Unfortunately, due to the current permissive regulations governing the supplement industry, USADA cannot give guarantees to athletes regarding which products are safe and free from contamination…” -USADA

    This letter warns athletes of supplements that say it contains geranium, geranium extract, leaves, stems, etc., because it might contain DMAA (the substance found in Reece’s body). Reece said he took Umcka root which is the root of an geranium plant. It’s likely that he took a supplement that he thought contained Umcka/geranium root but was really code word for DMAA. Clearly its problem for many athletes around the world.

    For those saying no excuses he cheated. Even if he intentionally took DMAA, its not a steroid. DMAA was banned and classified as a PED because of the negative health effects. DMAA is added to diet and workout supplements because its supposed to give you energy and focus. It’s hardly a performance enhancer. Again he’s not injecting growth hormones and roiding out. It’s just a substance found in over the counter supplements.

  26. There is no possible way that the DMAA detected in Reese’s body came from Umcka.

    Umcka is a drug product used for the treatment and prevention of the common cold. Umcka is an approved and registered drug by the German FDA and is specifically listed as safe to take (at all times by all athletes) by the German Anti-Doping Agency (which disallows stimulant use).

    Umcka contains an extract of Pelargonium sidoides roots. Not Pelargonium sidoides, nor any pelargonium species has ever been found to contain naturally occurring DMAA. Hundreds of tests have been performed and the results published to validate this point. Here are a few of the publications:

    J Anal Toxicol. 2012 Sep;36(7):457-71. doi: 10.1093/jat/bks055. Epub 2012 Jun 25.

    Drug Test Anal. 2014 Jul-Aug;6(7-8):797-804. doi: 10.1002/dta.1491. Epub 2013 May 22.

    Drug Test Anal. 2013 Feb;5(2):116-21. doi: 10.1002/dta.1391. Epub 2012 Sep 3.

    Synthetic DMAA has been found in sports nutrition products under the guise of a “Pelargonium graveolens” label statement. While I admire Reese’s creativity in attempting to blame the cold medication Umcka (i.e. “Pelargonium sidoides”) for his troubles, the facts indicate this just didn’t happen.

    The manufacturer would have absolutely no incentive to intentionally add a stimulant for enhancing workout performance to a cold medication.

    Would Reese have incentive to enhance his athletic performance by consumption of a banned substance and then lie to save his career?

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