The regular suspension of athletes by the International Association of Athletics Federations reminds us of the reality and seriousness of drug use in sport. But how do elite athletes know which sports nutrition products to trust?
What's the problem?
With the boundaries of human performance being challenged, the use of supplementation including protein shakes, rehydration sachets, vitamins and minerals has increased in recent years, with the intention of improving physical performance, both for elite athletes and for weekend warriors. Unfortunately some of those taking supplements may be unknowingly ingesting substances such as stimulants and hormones, banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
The repercussions of a positive drugs test can be severe, including suspension from sport for a number of years to lifetime bans for repeat offenders, not to mention possible health ramifications. In addition, the use of drugs in sport has unfortunately led to a number of medals being won unfairly, thereby decreasing the integrity of sporting competition. It is therefore the aim of WADA to bring consistency to anti-doping policies and regulations within sport across the world, enabling athletes to compete on a level playing field.
How does this happen?
So how do banned substances find their way into sports nutrition products in the first place?
The primary sources of contamination are raw materials and poor manufacturing practices. Many supplements are subcontracted to third party manufacturers, some of whom make a range of different products. Cross contamination can easily occur when traces of ingredients move between products being manufactured in the same facility.
In addition, many supplements use herbal ingredients which either have poor quality control or contain compounds that are naturally occurring but also prohibited in sport. Traces of banned substances can therefore end up in otherwise legitimate supplements. Since athletes are tested at levels as low as parts per billion, contamination can result in a positive drugs test which will have a significant and negative impact on their careers.
Keep it INFORMED-SPORT
Informed Sport is a quality assurance programme for sports nutrition products. The programme certifies that all nutritional supplements and/or ingredients that bear the Informed-Sport logo have been through a rigorous certification process that every batch produced is tested for banned substances by LGC’s world class sports anti-doping lab.
The Informed-Sport website lists companies which have their products registered and tested with Informed-Sport. Some companies such as Maximuscle have their entire product range listed. To be extra careful when it comes to responsible supplementation, search for specific batches of products on the Informed-Sport website and keep a record of the batches you have consumed just in case you are drugs tested.