Supplements in Sport - ASADA
ASADA’s long standing advice is that no supplement is safe to use and athletes should not risk their careers by taking a supplement. This is because many supplements are contaminated with substances prohibited in sport, which may not be listed on ingredient labels.
However, ASADA recognises that there may be circumstances where sports dieticians recommend supplements, or where athletes use supplements regardless of the risk.
In these circumstances, ASADA’s advice is that athletes should only use supplements which have been screened for prohibited substances by an independent company, such as HASTA or Informed Sport. Supplements screened by these companies cannot offer a 100% guarantee that an athlete will not test positive, but they are significantly less risky than other supplements.
For more information, download the ASADA Clean Sport mobile app, which lists all supplements sold on Australian shelves which have been screened by HASTA or Informed Sport, and provides a risk analysis for other supplements athletes may be considering.
All athletes should be aware of the three A’s for protecting a sporting career:
1 (Be) Aware
2 (Do your) Analysis
3 (Take steps to) Avoid
Millions of people around the world, including athletes, look to supplements as a way to boost their sports performance. However, supplements pose a real risk for athletes with about half of all anti-doping rule violations (sport bans) in Australia over the last five years a direct result of supplement use.
Being aware of the risks is the first step to staying in the game.
What are supplements?
Nutritional supplements cover a broad range of products including 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.
What are the risks?
The supplement industry is poorly regulated, so the ingredient list doesn't always match the product contents. That makes it difficult for any athlete to know exactly what is going into their body. It is not uncommon for banned substances to be added deliberately during the manufacturing process, or added accidentally through contamination. It is for these reasons ASADA is 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 bans of up to four years for athletes.
The presence of a prohibited substance in a supplement may result in an anti-doping rule violation, whether its use was intentional or unintentional. 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.
In addition to facing a possible ban from sport, there are some supplements on the market that contain prohibited stimulants which can pose serious health risks for athletes.
In 2016, life science company LGC conducted the Australian Supplements Survey which analysed 67 common supplement products available for purchase in Australia. They found one in five products contained one or more substances banned in sport. Importantly, none of the products identified listed any banned substances on their ingredients list.
A study by New Zealand's Otago University's Department of Physiology also found several supplements on sale in New Zealand and Australia contained steroids not declared on their labels.
Australian athletes talk about supplements in sport
Many elite Australian athletes avoid supplements all together. Multiple Olympic medallist Kim Brennan stated it clearly when she said: "Supplements aren't going to win you a gold medal."
If you need further information about this, or how to check your substance, go to https://www.asada.gov.au/substances/check-your-substances.