'Biggest Loser' Contestants Claim They Were Given Illegal Weight Loss Drugs
After The Biggest Loser," some former contestants are saying that that research didn't go far enough -- and that the show actually encouraged contestants to take illegal drugs and starve themselves in order to shed pounds and boost ratings, among other shocking claims.
The New York Post reports that after the study was published in the journal Obesity earlier this month, several former contestants reached out to say that it only revealed part of the purportedly large set of problems with "The Biggest Loser"'s methodology. The study stated that the show significantly altered contestants' metabolisms and hormone levels, leading most to regain much or all of the weight they lost after they left the show. But according to the contestants that The Post spoke with, it did more damage than that.
Many allegations surround the show's doctor, Rob Huizenga, a.k.a. Dr. H., who contestants say knowingly allowed trainers to supply them with drugs including "yellow jackets," which are yellow and black pills that contain ephedra extract (a substance that was banned by the FDA in 2004). Joelle Gwynn, who competed on the 2008 couples season of the show, told The Post that her trainer, Bob Harper, gave her yellow jackets, telling her, "Take this drug, it'll really help you." The pills made her "jittery and hyper," she told The Post, adding:
The next day, Dr. H gave us some lame explanation of why they got added to our regimen and that it was up to us to take them . . . People chastise Bill Cosby for allegedly offering meds to women, but it's acceptable to do to fat people to make them lose weight. I feel like we got raped, too.
Gwynn also said that Harper told her to lie and report that she was eating 1,500 calories per day, but encouraged her to actually eat about 800 calories per day in order to shed more pounds. Season two contestant Suzanne Mendonca told The Post that contestants would regularly "take amphetamines, water pills, diuretics, and throw up in the bathroom." She claimed that Harper "tells people to throw up" because they will "'lose more calories.'"
Huizenga denied the illegal drug claims ("Nothing could be further from the truth," he said), and told The Post that the show has a "zero tolerance for any weight-loss drugs." Huizenga added that he continually instructs contestants about "proper caloric intake," and that contestants "rarely" pass out.
Harper did not respond to The Post's request for comment. He later released a statement to People, also denying the veracity of The Post's report:
"These allegations are absolutely false and are in direct conflict with my lifelong devotion to health and fitness," he told PEOPLE. "Safety is paramount in my training regimen and, while demanding, my approach has always focused on the overall well-being of contestants as they lose significant weight and educate themselves, for the first time, on living a healthy lifestyle."
"The Biggest Loser" producers released the following statement to The Post:
The safety and well-being of our contestants is, and always has been, paramount. We prohibit the use of any illegal substances, in addition to the many other rules and procedures of the show that are designed to ensure safety.
The Post's report also contains several searing accounts from former contestants who claim they have suffered depression, additional weight gain, eating disorders, numerous medical maladies, divorce, job loss, and other detrimental physical and psychological effects as a result of their participation on the series. Read the entire thing here.
"The Biggest Loser" wrapped its 17th season in February. NBC has not yet announced whether the show will return for season 18.
Photo credit: Trae Patton/NBC