'Biggest Loser' Contestants Claim Show Gave Them Illegal Drugs To Lose Weight

By McCarton Ackerman 05/24/16

The former contestants claim that they were given Adderall and ephedra and encouraged to starve themselves for the show.

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'Biggest Loser' Contestants Claim Show Gave Them Illegal Drugs To Lose Weight
Season 2’s Suzanne Mendonca Photo via Fox News/YouTube

Several former contestants on The Biggest Loser are speaking out as to why they’ve regained all the weight they lost while on the reality show, claiming producers gave them illegal drugs and encouraged them to starve themselves.

The contestants came forward in response to a recent study published this month that was conducted by Dr. Kevin Hall at the National Institutes of Health. Hall attributed genetic predispositions, metabolic rates and hormone levels to why many of the contestants gained most or all of their weight back after the show. But an anonymous source told the New York Post that the show’s resident doctor, Rob Huizenga, gave contestants Adderall and pills containing ephedra extract, which was banned by the FDA in 2004.

“People were passing out in Dr. H’s office at the finale weigh-in,” Season 2’s Suzanne Mendonca told the Post. “On my season, five people had to be rushed to the hospital. He knew exactly what we were doing and never tried to stop it.”

Mendonca said that contestants would consume “amphetamines, water pills, diuretics, [then] throw up in the bathroom.” When she reported vomiting daily, she alleged that trainer Bob Harper told her, “Good, you’ll lose more calories.” Mendonca also claimed that producers told her she wasn’t “fat enough” during the applicant process despite being 5’6” and weighing 229 pounds, which is considered morbidly obese by NIH standards.

Similar sentiments were echoed by 2008 contestant Joelle Gwynn, who said she tried drugs that Harper’s assistant gave her to lose weight. "He says, ‘Take this drug, it’ll really help you.’ It was yellow and black. I was like, ‘What the fuck is this?’ Gwynn told the Post. "I felt jittery and hyper."

Huizenga denied the allegations in an email to the Post. He wrote that “contestants are told at the start of the show that there is zero tolerance for any weight-loss drugs. Urine drug screens and the evaluation of serial weights are repeatedly used to flush out possible illicit use.” 

Several medical professionals have spoken out about the legal, but still questionable weight loss practices on The Biggest Loser, which include working out for eight hours a day and then sending contestants home without any resources or support. Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, who specializes in obesity at the University of Ottawa, called the show “an atrocity” and said the show’s weight loss methods are “not endorsed by anyone in the medical community” either in the U.S. or abroad.

“Dr. Huizenga has said things that challenge my understanding of obesity in general,” said Freedhoff. “He has a history of making rather ridiculous statements…[The Biggest Loser] is the worst thing to happen to sensible weight loss, ever.”

Check out former Season 2 contestant Suzanne Mendonca describing her harrowing experience behind the scenes on The Biggest Loser:

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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