THE RISKS OF TAKING SUPPLEMENTS
What are dietary Supplements?
Dietary and nutritional supplements are defined as products containing “dietary ingredients” intended to supplement the diet. These include:
- vitamins and minerals
- amino acids
- herbs or herbal remedies
- organ tissues
- other dietary supplements.
Some common dietary supplements are:
- Protein powders
- Fat burners and weight loss products
- Muscle gainers
- Vitamins or multivitamins
Why is an Athlete at risk for taking supplements?
The manufacturing of dietary supplements is not appropriately regulated by the government in most countries. In fact, there is little government regulation on the supplement industry.
As such, supplements may be mislabelled and may:
- Intentionally contain prohibited substances.
- Inadvertently be contaminated with prohibited substances.
- Make false-claims (e.g. “WADA-certified”)
For an athlete subject to doping control, the reality is two-fold:
1. There continues to be significant health risks associated with dietary supplement use.
2. Adverse analytical findings and anti-doping rule violations continue to occur because of their use.
Under the principle of strict liability, athletes are strictly liable (responsible) for any prohibited substance that may be found in their sample and that an Anti-Doping Rule Violation occurs whenever a prohibited substance is found in their sample, whether or not the athlete intentionally or unintentionally used a prohibited substance or was negligent or otherwise at fault.
Athletes from all sports have been sanctioned with the maximum period of ineligibility for an Anti-Doping Rule Violation even when they argued that the positive finding was caused from a poorly labelled or contaminated supplement. Why take the risk?
IPF’s position regarding supplement use
IPF does not recommend the use of supplements. IPF believes the use of most supplements poses an unacceptable risk for Athletes and their athletic career.
Under the principle of strict liability, Athletes are responsible for any prohibited substance that may be found in their sample. Therefore, any Athlete who choose to use a supplement and then tests positive for a prohibited substance will likely have to deal with the consequences of an anti-doping rule violation being asserted, regardless of how the prohibited substance got into their body.
How can athletes minimize the risk?
IPF does not recommend the use of supplements. However, we do acknowledge that many athletes will choose to use them to support the nutritional demands of training and travelling.
All Athletes have a personal responsibility to evaluate all the risks associated with supplements before using them and athletes who will choose to use supplements MUST take these precautions PRIOR to using the supplement in order to minimize their risk:
- Seek advice from your nutritionist or other health professionals regarding dietary supplement use.
- Make a direct enquiry to the manufacturer and get a written guarantee or manufacturer’s certificate confirming that the product is free of any substances on the WADA Prohibited List.
- Ask if the manufacturer makes any products that do contain prohibited substances at the plant where the supplement is produced. If prohibited substances are present in a manufacturing plant, the risk of cross-contamination with the supplement is very high – don’t use that product.
- Ask if the manufacturer is prepared to stand behind its product. If they are not you should not use that product.
- Have proof showing the sensible and obvious precautions you took before taking the supplement to address the various risk factors associated with its use.
The IPF refers athletes to the NSF International Certified for Sport® program, which helps minimize the risk of unintentional doping. NSF International's Certified for Sport® laboratory testing services help clients establish product stewardship by confirming content and purity, compliance, and assessing public safety and environmental concerns on products used by athletes.
These precautions may help demonstrate that you were not at fault or not significantly at fault if a violation occurs as a result of supplement use. Although in most circumstances a violation will still be declared, proof that the utmost caution was observed may be taken into consideration when the sanction is imposed.