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HBO Real Sports episode centers on supplement deaths of Ft. Bliss soldiers

A powerful report by HBO “Real Sports” is shedding light on the use of unregulated supplements in the military. It centers on the deaths of three Ft. Bliss soldiers. One of their families is taking legal action.

Two Ft. Bliss soldiers died in 2011, another in 2012. All of them took products containing the dietary supplement, Dimethylamylamine, or “DMAA.” Autopsy reports said it was a contributing factor in the three deaths.

Private First Class Michael Sparling died of heart failure during physical training in 2011. Sparling’s family filed a lawsuit against health supplement store, GNC, and the company behind the product.

The Real Sports episode first aired two weeks ago. HBO estimates half of all members of the military use some sort of supplement. There are 130 GNC retail stores located on military bases across the country, including one at Ft Bliss, that’s where Pvt. Sparling purchased the supplement called “Jack3d.”

Following the 2011 deaths, Post Commander Dana Pittard led a crusade against the supplement. The PX removed products that contained it. Later, all military bases did the same. The maker, USPlabs, has stopped using it.

“Despite the overwhelming evidence that “Jack3d” is neither safe nor effective, continued to make public statements to the contrary, assuring consumers that DMAA is safe,” the lawsuit stated.

A Defense Department review found insufficient evidence to prove the ingredient caused the soldiers’ deaths. But, they still believe it’s a health risk.

“The reality of the situation is that they came to us and they had concerns about the ingredient and its interaction, and its safety of the product and they asked us to remove it,” Judd Anstey, with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service said.

Sparling’s parents and attorneys declined an interview. The trial is set for February of next year.

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