Supplements

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Athletes should be vigilant when using supplements

From 1 January 2015 the risks associated with supplement use increase as bans could get longer.

  • There is no guarantee that any supplement product is free from banned substances
  • You are strongly advised to be very cautious if you choose to use any supplement product
  • You must undertake thorough internet research of any supplement products before use, including the name of the product and the ingredients/substances listed. Information revealed as a result should be further investigated and we advise athletes to keep evidence of their research

What are the risks?

  • Supplements can contain banned substances
  • Contamination (where banned substances are accidentally mixed in with the supplement) can occur during the manufacturing process
  • Ingredients on the label may be listed differently to how they are shown on the Prohibited List
  • Supplements may be sold as counterfeit products. The risk of fake supplement products is greatest when buying over the internet
  • A label saying ‘Safe for Sports People’, or ‘Approved by WADA or UKAD’ is meaningless. WADA and UKAD do not approve any supplement products

Our advice

Before you take a supplement you should:

  • assess the need - all athletes should seek advice from a medical professional or nutritionist on their need to use supplement products
  • assess the risk - undertake thorough research of all supplement products you are considering taking
  • assess the consequences - you could receive a four-year ban

You can reduce the risks by:

All athletes are advised to be vigilant in using any supplement. No guarantee can be given that any particular supplement is free from prohibited substances.

An important principle of the Code is that of strict liability, which states that athletes are solely responsible for any prohibited substances they use, attempt to use or is found in their system regardless of how it got there and if there was an intention to cheat. Before taking supplements, athletes must therefore assess the need, risk and consequences to their careers.

Diet, lifestyle and training should all be optimised before athletes consider supplements and they should always consult a medical professional or nutritionist and seek advice.

Supplements may claim to be drug-free or safe for drug-tested athletes. It is not possible to guarantee that specific supplements will be free of prohibited substances and athletes can only reduce the risk of inadvertent doping by making informed decisions.

There is an array of supplements available for athletes to purchase that have no prohibited substances listed as ingredients. Despite this, there have been several cases whereby supplement products have been contaminated with prohibited substances as defined by the World Anti-Doping Code (the Code) Prohibited List.

In the UK, LGC has taken the initiative to create a scheme to support athletes in assessing the risk. The Informed-Sport programme is designed to evaluate supplement manufacturers for their process integrity and screening of supplements and raw ingredients for the presence of substances that are on the WADA Prohibited List. For further information, visit the Informed-Sport website.

UKAD believes this risk minimisation service to be a positive step and welcomes the approach being taken by industry and the LGC Informed-Sport programme.

However, we wish to remind athletes that strict liability will still apply and the appropriate sanctions imposed on any athlete returning an adverse analytical finding from any supplement product, as with all other cases of doping.

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