Risk of Supplement Use
Using supplements can be risky as they can contain banned substances that are included on the List and be harmful to your health.
Medications, which are produced to very thorough regulatory standards (meaning you can check their ingredients against the List), the manufacturing standards for supplements, in most cases, are less thorough. This means that how they list or name their ingredients can be different to a medication, and even to the List. Plus, they may, at times, make advertising “claims” as to how they work with less or old scientific research to back up such claims.
WADA and other Anti-doping organizations (ADOs) do not approve, certify or endorse supplement products.
Other supplement products may say they are “safe for athletes to use” or state that the supplement “does not contain banned substances”. This may also be untrue. Supplement companies are looking to market their products in a way that makes them appealing and convincing. Be wary of claims that seem too good to be true.
What is a Supplement?
In general, supplements are manufactured products likes 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 meant to “supplement” the diet.
But be aware, there are legally available products on the market that may be harmful to your health, may have negative effects on your performance, and may cause you to test positive.
You see, 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 pure they are), how they are listed on the label, and where the supplement is purchased can create risks.
There is risk in the use of supplements and the potential for harm for all people. But, there can be increased risks for minors. Be aware that most supplements are made for adults and can be damaging if used by young athletes.
A common misconception about supplements is that they are a replacement for food or even superior to food, when you’re eating well and getting the balance of nutrients and energy you need, it’s likely that using supplements is unnecessary.
Choosing the right nutrient-dense foods allows you to optimize the way your body functions as well as avoid having to take supplements unnecessarily. Nutrient-dense foods are essential for effective training and recovery.
In case when a supplement is deemed essential and all the other questions have been asked, then it is recommended that a batch-tested supplement is used.
A batch-tested supplement cannot remove all risks associated with supplements. However, it can significantly reduce them.
What is Batch-test Supplement?
In some countries, in order to minimize the risk, there are programs that screen supplement products for banned substances.
Programs differ in how they operate so you should ensure you are fully aware of the limitations of the program as well as the benefits.
It is also important to remember that a product bought in another country may not be screened and may contain different ingredients even if it is made by the same company.
Note: There is no way to guarantee that any supplement product is free from banned substances.
Before using the supplement, consider bringing it to the medical professional to review with you and confirm an appropriate dose. And, if you use a supplement,
Keep a small amount – if you test positive, you at least have the option of having your leftover sample scientifically tested to see if it was contaminated:
- Keep the batch-test certificate
- Keep the proof of purchase, like a receipt
- Keep a log of when and how much you take
Some banned substances can stay in your system for a long time and by the time you are informed of a positive test, you might have forgotten what supplements you took, when and how much.
It’s also important to know that if you test positive and you believe it is from a supplement, you may need to prove that you undertook thorough internet research and that the supplement is likely to have been contaminated.
There can be significant consequences if a decision is made to use supplements especially if no consideration has been given to the risks and how to manage them.
Along with receiving an ADRV and an associated sanction, which could be a 4-year ban from sport, there can be health consequences too.