RADOCA’s advice is that no supplement is safe to use.
The athletes should not risk their career by taking a supplement because many supplements are contaminated with substances prohibited in sport. These may not be listed on ingredient labels.
Many athletes believe they need dietary supplements to perform at their best, but this trust in supplements is undeserved, and it’s important that athletes recognize and reduce their risk if they choose to use supplements. There are often no warning signs that a product is unsafe, and many athletes have suffered health problems or positive drug tests and sanctions from using products that are incorrectly labeled or contaminated with dangerous ingredients, such as anabolic steroids, pharmaceuticals, or research drugs.
Being aware of the risks is the first step to staying in the game.
The RADOCA recognizes that there may be circumstances where supplements are recommended, or where the athletes will take the risk and use supplements. In these circumstances, our advice is to only use supplements that have been screened for prohibited substances by an independent company (also known as ‘batch testing’), such as Informed Sport, NSF, or HASTA. Supplements screened by these companies cannot offer a full guarantee that an athlete will not test positive, but they are significantly less risky than other supplements.
Nutritional supplements include vitamins, minerals, herbs, meal supplements, sports nutrition products, natural food supplements, and other related products used to boost the nutritional content of the diet.
The marketplace supplies thousands of supplements claiming to provide nutritional support for athletes. Some of these consist of high-protein products, such as amino acid supplements, while other products contain nutrients that support metabolism, energy, and athletic performance and recovery. Supplements can be found in pill, tablet, capsule, powder or liquid form.
Research has shown that the ingredient list on supplements doesn’t always match the product contents. That makes it difficult for you to know exactly what is going into your body. It is not uncommon for banned substances to be added deliberately during the manufacturing process, or added accidentally through contamination. Because of this, we are unable to guarantee whether a specific supplement, or batch of a supplement, is safe to use.
CONSEQUENCES OF SUPPLEMENT USE BY ATHLETES
Products containing a prohibited substance can result in you being banned for up to four years.
The presence of a prohibited substance in a supplement may result in an anti-doping rule violation. This is the case whether you used it intentionally or not. Under the World Anti-Doping Code’s strict liability principle, athletes are ultimately responsible for any substance found in their body, regardless of how it got there. That means, even if the prohibited substance is not listed on the label of a supplement, if you consume it, you are still responsible.
The risk of doping through the use of supplements is real and doing research can be your best form of defence.
Prior to using any supplement, ask yourself:
- Has it been tested?
- Is it safe?
- Before taking it, is it effective (in improving performance) or necessary?
If athletes choose to use supplements despite the risks, RADOCA has always recommended that athletes use only dietary supplements that have been certified by independent laboratories that tests for substances prohibited in sport. This fact remains unchanged.
If you decide to take a supplement, the first question you should ask about a product is, ‘has it been tested for banned substances?’
There are a number of companies that offer laboratory analysis of supplements to check whether they contain banned substances. They screen products, including protein powders, creatine powders, pre-work outs and recovery products.
Remember, no supplement is 100% safe. The only way to have zero risk, is to take zero supplements.
CHECKING INGREDIENTS ONLINE
You can use our online substance checking tool, Global DRO to check thousands of ingredients and their status in sport, including individual ingredients listed on supplement labels.
Despite the claims made by supplement manufacturers that their products are safe and free of substances prohibited in sport, there is a risk associated with the use of any supplement. Supplements may contain prohibited substances even if every ingredient listed on the label is approved by online substance checking tool.
When researching supplement ingredients be aware that supplement manufacturers may use alternate names. Be particularly wary of ingredients with chemical names or plant extracts.
At a minimum, you should check every ingredient on Global DRO. However, this still does not guarantee that the supplement is safe to use as some supplements contain substances not listed on the ingredient label. However, do note that Global DRO will not return results for specific brands.