Risk of supplement use

Nutritional supplements present a doping risk as they may be contaminated with prohibited substances. In general, supplements are manufactured products like pills, capsules, powders, gels, drinks, and bars that contain nutrients, herbs, amino acids, or other substances that can affect the body. These are typically available over-the-counter and are meant to “supplement” the diet.

The regulations for how supplements are manufactured can be less strict than those for medications; and, the manufacturing and sale of supplements can be tightly regulated in some countries but often these regulations are not enforced.

This means that the ingredients a supplement contains, their quality, how they are listed on the label, and where the supplement is purchased can create risks.

Extreme caution is recommended regarding supplement use. A number of positive tests have been attributed to the misuse of supplements, poor labeling, or contamination of dietary supplements and there is no guarantee that a supplement is free from prohibited substances.

Risks of supplements include:

  • Manufacturing standards are often less strict compared with medicines. These lower standards often lead to supplement contamination with an undeclared prohibited substance;
  • Fake or low-quality products which may contain prohibited substances – and be harmful to health;
  • Mislabelling of supplements with ingredients wrongly listed and prohibited substances notntified on the product label;
  • False claims that a particular supplement is endorsed by Anti-Doping Organisations or that it is “safe for Athletes”. Remember, Anti-Doping Organisations do not certify supplements and the product label may contain misleading messaging.

All Athletes should do a risk-benefit assessment if they are considering the use of supplements. The first step of such an assessment is to consider whether a “food-first” approach meets the Athlete’s needs. Whenever possible, such assessment should be done with a support of a certified nutritionist.

We recommend the use of Global Dro to check all medications. The Global Drug Reference Online (Global DRO) provides Athletes and Athlete Support Personnel with information about the prohibited status of specific medications based on the current WADA Prohibited List.

Things to Remember

The Principle of Strict Liability always applies: an Athlete is responsible for any prohibited substance found, and an ADRV may occur whether or not an Athlete intended to take a banned substance.