"Biggest Loser" Weight-Loss Drug Allegations Investigated By NBC

By Bryan Le 07/23/18

“People were passing out in Dr. H’s office at the finale weigh-in. On my season, five people had to be rushed to the hospital," one contestant claimed.

 woman in big jeans displaying weight loss.

Contestants on the NBC weight-loss reality show, The Biggest Loser, allege that they were given drugs and medications intended to help with weight loss by health experts on the show’s staff.

In the show, a cast of overweight contestants are challenged to lose as much weight as possible over the length of the show’s season. The person who loses the highest percentage of weight wins money.

However, several of the shows’ contestants revealed that they were told to abstain from eating and take pills to lose weight—and keep how they lost the weight a secret.

“Take this drug, it'll really help you,” Joelle Gwynn said, repeating to The New York Post what one of the show’s assistants allegedly said to her.

Gwynn claims the assistant, as well as her boss, trainer Bob Harper, were handing out Adderall and “yellow jackets,” a weight loss drug containing ephedra that does not have FDA approval.

Gwynn reported it to “the sports medicine guy,” but alleges she was encouraged to take them by the show’s doctors. “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,” she said.

Another contestant, Suzanne Mendonca, said the doctor encouraged contestants to fight dehydration by using teaspoons of baking soda.

The doctor in question, Dr. Robert Huizenga, sued The New York Post for defamation in 2016. He says the claims are untrue and are hurting his reputation. “Contestants are told at the start of the show that there is zero tolerance for any weight-loss drugs,” Dr. Huizenga said.

However, the show has not continued since these accusations were leveled in 2016. Lawyers at The New York Post are looking into the connection between these accusations and whether they were the reason the show came to an end.

“It is simply not plausible that NBC canceled a television show that ran for 17 seasons and that was, at one point, one of NBC’s highest-rated programs—all without a single individual sending a single email,” wrote New York Post attorney Steven Mintz to the New York federal judge.

The contestants have an idea of why the show ended.

“People were passing out in Dr. H’s office at the finale weigh-in,” Season 2's Suzanne Mendonca said to the Post in 2016. “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.”

According to The Hollywood Reporter, "NBCUniversal is the recipient of a subpoena exploring what it knows about Biggest Loser drug use, medical concerns, compensation and cancellation. Over the past two months, the two sides have been fighting over what documents must be produced."

An NBC spokesman says the network is unable to comment on ongoing legal matters. 

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter