Nutritional supplements, also known as dietary supplements, are becoming a topic of increasing concern for athletes. This is because their ingredients may often contain prohibited substances that the athlete is not aware of. The easiest path for many athletes is simply not to use nutritional supplements, to avoid the risk of an unintentional doping violation.
If athletes choose to use nutritional or dietary supplements, they must exercise extreme caution and understand that they are ultimately responsible for every substance found within their bodies, whether ingested intentionally or unintentionally.
In general, food supplement products are not subject to strict manufacturing controls, even those you may find sold in pharmacies. There is always a risk that food supplement products may contain prohibited substances not identified on the label or substances in different concentrations than stated on the label. WADA does not endorse any food supplement product.
One of the most common problem ingredients is Methylhexaneamine, you can learn more about it here:
Athletes are encouraged to take all the necessary steps to be informed consumers, and if they take nutritional supplements, the following procedures can help:
1. Evaluate all products
2. Understand all ingredients
3. Do your own research, for example via the internet or in a book – don’t just rely on the advice of your friends or fellow athletes
4. Consult with a medical doctor to determine whether it is really necessary to take the supplement
5. Have products tested to ensure safety.
For a helpful legal point of view, read this recent post by Dr. Gregory Ioannidis:
For the official stance taken by WADA:
(Text taken from the WADA website Q&A on Dietary Supplements: http://www.wada-ama.org/en/Anti-Doping-Community/Athletes-/QA-on-Dietary-Supplement/)
1. ARE SUPPLEMENTS SAFE TO TAKE?
Extreme caution is recommended regarding supplement use.
The use of dietary supplements by athletes is a serious concern because in many countries the manufacturing and labeling of supplements do not follow strict rules, which may lead to a supplement containing an undeclared substance that is prohibited under anti-doping regulations. A significant number of positive tests have been attributed to the misuse of supplements and attributing an Adverse Analytical Finding to a poorly labeled dietary supplement is not an adequate defense in a doping hearing.
The risks of taking supplements should be weighed against the potential benefit that may be obtained, and athletes must appreciate the negative consequences of an Anti-Doping Rule Violation as a result of taking a contaminated supplement.
Use of supplement products that have been subjected to one of the available quality assurance schemes can help to reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of an inadvertent doping infringement.
2. CAN A DIETARY/NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENT COMPANY HAVE THEIR SUPPLEMENTS TESTED BY WADA?
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is not involved in the testing of dietary/nutritional supplements.
The Laboratory Code of Ethics, in the International Standard for Laboratories (Section 4.4 of Annex B), states that WADA-accredited laboratories shall not engage in analyzing commercial material or preparations (e.g. dietary supplements) unless specifically requested by an Anti-Doping Organization as part of a doping case investigation. The Laboratory shall not provide results, documentation or advice that, in any way, suggests endorsement of products or services.
3. CAN A SUPPLEMENT COMPANY HAVE THEIR PRODUCTS APPROVED BY WADA?
WADA is not involved in any certification process regarding supplements and therefore does not certify or endorse manufacturers or their products. WADA does not control the quality or the claims of the supplements industry which may, from time to time, claim that their products have been approved or certified by WADA.
If a company wishes to promote its products to the sport community, it is their responsibility as a manufacturer to ensure that the products do not lead to any anti-doping rule violation. Some third-party testers of supplements exist, and this may reduce the risk of contamination but not eliminate it.