Following the release of a controversial study claiming that some contestants have damaged their metabolism from extreme dieting on the show, former contestant Joelle Gwynn now claims that she was provided drugs to help her lose weight while competing on the NBC reality weight-loss competition.
Gwynn told the New York Post “Bob Harper was my trainer … He goes away and his assistant comes in. He’s got this brown paper bag that’s bundled up. He says, ‘Take this drug, it’ll really help you.’ It was yellow and black. I was like, ‘What the f–k is this?’ “
“I felt jittery and hyper,” Gwynn, who competed on the show in 2008, told the Post of the one time she took the pill she says she was given. “I went and told the sports medicine guy. The next day, [the show’s resident doctor, Robert Huizenga] 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.”
Harper adamantly denied the allegations.
“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.”
Producers from the show also told PEOPLE in a statement that they don’t tolerate drug use. “Contestants are told at the start of the show that there is zero tolerance for any weight loss drugs. We prohibit the use of any illegal substances,” they said in a statement.
Season 2 contestant Suzanne Mendonca also claimed that contestants would go to extremes to lose weight on the show.
Huzeinga denied the former contestants’ claims to the Post, saying, “Nothing could be further from the truth. 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.”
Biggest Loser producers tell PEOPLE in their statement that they “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 … Our goal is to give contestants the tools, knowledge and the environment in which to get healthy and continue their journey successfully at home.”
And other former contestants have spoken out on Facebook to show their support for the show.
“I can not speak for others seasons or other contestants, but I can share my own experience. I was NEVER asked to take any weight loss drugs. My weight loss has come from, as [my trainer Dolvett Quince said], hard work, dedication. I have made positive food choices and love to exercise. Weight loss is a struggle, it is a challenge every day,” Jacky Kmet, who competed on the most recent season, wrote in a post on Sunday. “There are no words could ever truly express my gratitude to all those associated with the show.”
“The Biggest Loser never made or asked me to take anything,” season 12 contestant Vinny Hickersonposted later the same day. “This is what [happens] when you stop making excuses, stop blaming other people and become a meticulous dedicated responsible person. Biggest Loser saved my life and through the things I learned I have helped countless others. #takeresponsibilityforyourownactions”
Season 17 of The Biggest Loserended in February. It has yet to be announced if the show will return for an 18th season.