UKAD reveals concerns over ‘quick fix’ sport supplement usage

UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) fears people could be putting their health at risk, as new polling for Clean Sport Week shows British adults who take sports supplements are ill-informed about what they’re putting in their bodies. 

UKAD is appealing to the public to seek expert advice before taking sports nutritional supplements, following new polling for Clean Sport Week, into people’s approach to consuming these products.

The YouGov study published today by UKAD shows that 87% of British adults polled, who exercise and take sports supplements, do not seek any advice from a healthcare professional such as a doctor, pharmacist, or dietician, before taking these supplements, while a fifth (20%) do not seek any advice at all before consuming these products.

The UKAD polling showed that over a fifth of adults (22%) who exercise and have taken a supplement, have taken weight loss/fat burners, and 15% have taken pre-workout supplements. Some of these products can contain stimulants like: caffeine, methylhexanamine (DMAA) or dimethylbutylamine (DMAB). Along with adverse health effects, DMAA and DMAB can result in athlete bans from sport (both are on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) banned list of substances – the Prohibited List).

These stimulants, which can be found in weight-loss and pre-workout products can have a number of side effects, especially when taken frequently and in high doses. The effects can include; insomnia, anxiety, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and increased risk of stroke, heart attack, and cardiac arrhythmia.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) are the govenerment agency which regulates medicines, medical devices and blood components for transfusion in the UK. The MHRA are supporting Clean Sport Week with particular focus on sports supplements which contain unlicensed medicines such as DMAA.

William Whitfield, an MHRA Medicines Borderline Classifier said: “We’re supporting Clean Sport Week through working with UKAD to warn athletes about the dangers of unlicensed medicines, marketed as sports supplements, containing active ingredients such as DMAA.

“As always, we will continue to take robust action when such products come to our attention. MHRA first classified a product containing DMAA as a medicine, and subsequently had it removed from sale in the UK, in 2012. We will protect public health by continuing to do so.”

The findings have been released today to mark Clean Sport Week (21-27 May), a campaign to highlight the extensive work being done by UKAD and its partners to ensure sport in the UK is clean for everyone.

Nicole Sapstead, UKAD Chief Executive said: “We believe there is a vital public debate that needs to take place around the growing supplement culture in the UK and the survey results highlight this. These results show a huge percentage of British adults do not seek any advice from a helathcare professional before taking supplements, and many also take a cocktail of products.

“Elite athletes are aware that if they take any supplements containing a prohibited substance this will lead to a ban. Even if you’re not an elite athlete we believe that everybody should know what they are putting in their body. UKAD would encourage anyone looking to take supplements to: assess the need to do so, assess the risk, and assess the possible consequences of doing so. People may decide to turn to supplements for a ‘quick-fix’, however for most, their nutritional needs can be met through a good diet, and we support a ‘food-first’ approach to nutrition.”

Tracey Crouch, Minister for Sport and Civil Society, added: “Supplements should not be seen as a quick fix. It’s important that anyone, whether an amateur athlete or avid gym-goer, is aware of the potential side effects and seeks advice before taking supplements."

UKAD acknowledges that there is a legitimate place for supplements in performance sports alongside a healthy lifestyle. UKAD’s efforts are focused on reducing the risks from supplement use. UKAD works closely with Informed Sport, who work to minimise the risk of contamination through their supplement batch testing programme.

Some of Britain’s best known elite sports stars are backing Clean Sport Week, along with more than 30 National Governing Bodies of sport (NGBs), the British Olympic Association (BOA), British Paralympic Association (BPA), Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), and UK Sport.