According to reports many body builders are injecting drugs meant for greyhounds in the mistaken belief it will help them build bigger muscles faster. L-carnitine is found in supplements sold for human consumption but these users are buying an injectable form from pet shops which experts say can increase the risk of heart attacks. L-carnitine is a quaternary ammonium compound biosynthesized from the amino acids lysine and methionine.
It is known that L-carnitine could help bodybuilders pump more weights before exhausting their muscles. The drug is not a steroid but is said to speed the metabolic process of converting fat into energy. For humans it is sold as a weight-loss aid and to develop lean muscle mass. However Wentworth Park greyhound racing's head veterinarian Ted Humphries explained that the canine version was mainly used to help muscle contraction. He added that tests of the drug on greyhounds had found “no demonstrable improvements” on performance. Mr Humphries said, “About 10 per cent of trainers use it but the other 90 per cent wouldn't bother. It could cause cardiac arrest in large doses in those with an underlying heart condition. A lot of people are unaware they have one and bodybuilders would not be exempt from that.” He warned that veterinary drug manufacturers were “generally less stringent” about the exact contents of drugs compared with drugs for humans.
There are 92 medicines listed as low-risk by the Therapeutic Goods Administration containing L-carnitine and all are taken orally. According to a TGA spokeswoman injectable L-carnitine was not approved for human use and it was illegal to use veterinary drugs on people. A 100ml bottle of L-carnitine can be bought over the veterinary counter for $69.
The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority said, because L-carnitine was not a schedule 4 substance, which are remedies prescribed following a veterinary diagnosis, it could not further regulate its sale. “Chemical abuse extends beyond L-carnitine and can be tragic in its consequences,” a spokesman said.
The highest concentrations of carnitine are found in red meat and dairy products. Other natural sources of carnitine include nuts and seeds (e.g. pumpkin, sunflower, sesame), legumes or pulses (beans, peas, lentils, peanuts), vegetables (artichokes, asparagus, beet greens, broccoli, brussels sprouts, collard greens, garlic, mustard greens, okra, parsley, kale), fruits (apricots, bananas), cereals (buckwheat, corn, millet, oatmeal, rice bran, rye, whole wheat, wheat bran, wheat germ) and other "health" foods (bee pollen, brewer's yeast, carob).