The Biggest Loser is under fire after former contestants are claiming they were encouraged to use more than exercise and healthy diets to lose weight while on the NBC competition show.
In an article by the New York Post
, multiple ex-hopefuls called The Biggest Loser
's ethics into question. According to the publication's sources, contestants were encouraged to lie about their weight and take street drugs while starving themselves on the show.
One of the accusers, Suzanne Mendonca, spoke to ET.
"This show hurts people," Mendonca told ET on Monday. "I have heard people take diuretics on my season and I did hear [trainer] Bob [Harper] speaking about ephedra pills."
Ephedra is a substance that was banned by the FDA in 2004, and is used to promote weight loss and boost energy.
Harper vehemently denies the claims against him, stating, "These allegations are absolutely false and are in direct conflict with my lifelong devotion to health and fitness."
For their part, the show's producers state that the safety of the contestants is 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," producers said in a statement. "Our goal is to give contestants the tools, knowledge and the environment in which to get healthy and continue their journey successfully at home."
Additionally, Mendonca claimed that contestants would take amphetamines, throw up in the bathroom, and pass out in Dr. Robert Huizenga's office at the finale weigh-in.
"They dehydrate themselves," Mendonca said. "I've seen numerous contestants pass out in his office. Throughout my season, contestants were rushed to the hospital."
The Biggest Loser's resident doctor, Dr. Huizenga, called the claims false, adding that no one passed out in his office, no season two contestant was "rushed to the hospital," and that there is a zero tolerance for weight-loss drugs.
"Recently, accusations surfaced that I had knowledge of weight loss drugs being given to contestants on The Biggest Loser. This is libelous and could not be further from the truth," Dr. Huizenga said in a statement. "Contestants are given a strict 'calorie minimum' that they are required to eat and must also accurately journal everything they eat during the show or risk expulsion. Furthermore, I educate contestants that proper caloric intake is essential to fat loss both over the short and long term. Contestants are told at the start of the show that there is zero tolerance for any weight loss drugs. Urine drug screens, urine electrolytes, and the evaluation of serial weights are repeatedly used to flush out possible illicit use."
Despite the backlash, there are some former participants who are defending the show, including season 17 contestant Jacky Kmet.
"It's hard work and dedication that gets you weight loss," Kmet told ET on Monday. "There's no magic pill."