Athletes are bound by the rules of the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) where banned substances are listed; this may include inside and outside of competition and Therapeutic use. View the banned substances list here (Exemption for certain medical conditions.)
If you are checking medication then you should check the Global drug reference online (Global DRO) where you can select your sport and medication.
I find athletes are often confused about what we mean by a supplement.
It is anything that you are taking to supplement the food in your diet. So this would include any vitamin and mineral supplements, probiotics, protein supplements, energy carbohydrate powders, gels, gums and bars and more novel ergogenic aids.
Whilst you can never guarantee that a supplement will be free of a banned substance you can assess the need to take supplements, assess the risk of taking the supplement and the consequences of a 4 year ban if found to have a banned substance in a urine sample.
We should always choose food first to meet our needs before, during and post training or competition, however there are circumstances where supplements may be required. These needs should be addressed with your performance nutritionist or dietitian or medical team.
In the UKAD Code it clearly states that “athletes are solely responsible for any prohibited substances they use, attempt to use or is found in their system regardless of how it got there and if there was an intention to cheat”
Whilst supplements may not have an added substance which is banned there may be contamination from other substances produced in the same factory, they may be counterfeit products or their ingredients may be listed differently than that on the prohibited list. There also needs to be traceability of their raw ingredients which may be contaminated.
Always discuss the use, need, risk and consequences with your performance nutritionist or dietitian or sports medicine specialist. You can then make an informed decision.
You should then check that the product has been tested by a third party who tests for prohibited substances prohibited in sports. An example of a programme is the Informed Sports programme. Where products are tested under ISO 17025 methods, auditing of manufacturing quality controls, including product labels, the pre-registration testing of products before entry onto the programme followed by regular testing of products post registration.
There are two different tested products on the market tested by Informed Sports methods; Informed-Sport : Every batch/lot tested and Informed-Choice where there is Monthly blind sample testing.
You can simply head to the informed sports website and check the batch code or search for the product or brand to find out if your product, flavour and batch is tested.
You should always check with the manufacturers of the product and ask for the ISO batch certificate from their testing methods and protocols.
If the manufacturer does not test the products or they can not give you their testing protocols or batch test certificates then it would be prudent to question whether you would be confident holding the risk and consequences of taking a product that has not been tested by a third party.
Always use and check for supplements that have been tested by a trusted third party programme.
Head over to the 100%Me UKAD app designed for athletes to help support and educate.
A question I often get asked! Many athletes are unaware of making sure supplements are tested or that they will be liable for testing!
As athletes we are all liable to be tested at any time, at any competition.
These tests can be carried out by National Anti-Doping Organisations (in the UK we have UKAD), International Federations and major event organisers for example the Olympic games or Ironman. There are blood and urine tests.
So you may have already experienced a test for example after a big podium win!
You will be and can be requested at any time to report for a test. You will provide ID, report for testing and choose a collection vessel. You will be accompanied whilst you collect a urine or blood sample (by a trained blood collection officer), select your sampling kit and divide your urine sample into two different bottles A + B.
These are then sent along with your declaration form about what medications and supplements you take to a WADA accredited laboratory for testing. They will choose one of the samples for testing and then you and the organisation requisition the information will be informed.
Always make sure that athletes assess and discuss your need for using a supplement, the possible benefits and any risks or consequences of using a product with a qualified sports nutritionist or sports doctor before taking it.
Checking the product is tested by a trusted testing programme such as Informed Sport can be useful as a risk reduction strategy to help prevent intake of prohibited substances.
I would also advise athletes to keep a record of batch codes so that you can be confident that you have done everything possible to make sure the products you use are likely to be free of prohibited substances.
Keeping a record of the codes is also a good idea just in case you need to refer to these in the future if you are called for testing.
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Written by: Claire Fudge, Clinical Dietitian and High Performance Nutritionist