HOUSTON—For some people, working out isn’t just about staying in shape – it’s about building muscle and getting bigger.
And inside gyms around the country, body builders talk to each other about how to get results fast.
"That’s how I heard about it – word of mouth in the gym. Everybody is on it. This is the going thing right now. It is working," Heath Stevison said.
So in June, Stevison started taking M-Drol, a dietary supplement he bought over the Internet.
"I took this stuff off the Internet – supposedly legal – just trying to get big, look a little better, and now I’m laying in a hospital bed looking at a transplant," Stevison said.
He was there for 11 days.
Stevison said his eyes were turning yellow and he constantly suffered from fatigue. After a series of tests, doctors determined his liver was shutting down.
"It aggravated me because there were no warnings about how it could shut down my liver. There was nothing about liver damage, anything. If it would have had the proper warnings on there, I wouldn’t have took it," Stevison said.
Jesse Woods of Baytown said the product worked for him at first. But then things went downhill.
"Once my eyes turned yellow, I got pretty scared and went to the emergency room," Woods said.
He spent nearly three weeks in the hospital and, like Stevison, doctors finally figured out the problem was with his dietary supplements.
Hoping to add body mass to his 155-pound frame, Woods began to take M-Drol and P-Plex.
The supplements were marketed on the Internet by a company in Galveston called TF Supplements.
Calls to the business were not returned, but the TF Supplements Web site said M-Drol has been discontinued.
Jason Gibson has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Stevison and Woods. He calls M-Drol a steroid.
"It is designed that once this substance gets in your body, it breaks down and it is a steroid," Gibson said.
He said the main ingredients in M-Drol and P-Plex are methylated compounds known to cause liver damage.
He said the supplements were manufactured by a company called Competitive Edge Labs, a foreign corporation working in Virginia that the lawsuit claims doesn’t maintain a regular place of business.
11 News tried to track down company officials for comment, but we couldn’t find them.
It should be noted, though, that manufacturing and distributing the supplements is not against the law.
The FDA issued a public health advisory in July saying customers should stop taking steroids marketed as dietary supplements, but that’s about all the government has done.
"There is no punishment. There is no oversight, and there needs to be. They need to take all these products off the market. They need to make sure none of the products are capable of being sold over the counter to high school students, to college students, to anybody who wants to walk in and buy them," Gibson said.
In the meantime, Stevison and Woods believe Competitive Edge Labs and TF Supplements, even though they haven’t broken any laws, should be held accountable for their illnesses.
Neither Stevison nor Woods ended up needing liver transplants, but they want to warn others about just how sick they got.
"Honestly, what I would tell them is to not take any supplement at all. I wouldn’t take any kind of herbal supplement, any kind of dietary supplement. You are just going to have to do it naturally," Stevison said.
They both agree that if you want to take something, you need to talk to a doctor first.