Supplement

The use of supplements by athletes is becoming very common. According to a survey conducted in UK, close to 60% of high-performing athletes use at least one nutritional supplement and more than 80% of them used more than one. It is easy to understand that athletes want to gain a competitive edge over their opponents by all possible legal means. However, most of the athletes are not aware of the potential danger of using supplements. The paragraphs below summarize the risk of taking supplements and provides a guideline for choosing the right ones.

Common misconception
I will be OK if I have carefully checked the list of ingredients on the label of my supplements against the Prohibited List and avoid using supplements with prohibited substances.

Why is taking supplements dangerous and increases the risk of being tested positive in a drug test?
The production and labeling of supplements are not strictly regulated as compared to medicine. The ingredients of the supplements may not match those listed on the label. Some of the undeclared ingredients can even contain prohibited substances. Even though regulation on the labeling of supplements is becoming stricter, contamination during production is still possible. Previous study has shown that as many as 20% of supplements on the market contain ingredients that are not declared on the label and could lead to a positive test result.

World Anti-Doping Agency's(WADA) stand on the use of supplements by athletes
A good diet is of utmost importance to athletes competing on the international stage. Diet, lifestyle and training should all be optimized before considering supplements and athletes should assess the need for supplements.

WADA is very concerned about the number of athletes who are prepared to take supplements with little knowledge of what real benefits they provide and whether or not they contain prohibited substances.

Taking a poorly labeled supplement is not an adequate defense in a doping hearing. According to the principle of strict liability, athletes will be responsible for the presence of any prohibited substance in his/her body no matter the athlete intentionally or unintentionally use a prohibited substance.

It is virtually impossible to be certain that supplement contains ONLY the ingredients listed on the label. There will never be 100% assurance for athletes that a supplement does not contain / is not contaminated with prohibited substances and thus poses an involuntary doping offence.

What should be considered before deciding to take supplements?

Athletes should seriously consider
(i)The potential risks of taking supplements
(ii)other possible alternatives to achieve the same purpose
(iii)advices from medical and sport professionals (e.g. sport physician,
      sport nutritionist, etc)


Taking supplement is not the best and only way to help your performance. Other possible and safer methods to help boost performance and enhance recovery are, for example:

• scientific training program
• good dietary practice
• relaxation technique
• regular monitoring

Risk and benefit analysis
Medical and sport professionals should be able to help you making informed decisions on choosing the right supplements. The final decisions should be based on the risks and benefits analysis in the following three aspects:

 

(i) Health Considerations
    There are always possible side effects of taking the supplement. Are
    these side effects serious? How about the possibility of abuse and
    addiction on prolonged usage? Are there any precautions or
    contraindications for using the supplement?

 

(ii) Effectiveness of Supplement
     How true are the claims about the supplement as provided in the
     advertisement?

     Athletes should be very careful in believing these claims. In most
     cases, anecdotal evidence and personal endorsement are used instead
     of valid scientific evidence. Even though scientific theories are used in
     explaining how the supplement works, they are not necessarily
     supported by studies that prove the theories work in reality. Is the
     supplement really going to help me?

Benefits of a supplement even scientifically proven may be very specific to certain situations and to certain individuals.

 

(iii) Legal Considerations
      How likely the supplement will lead to a positive drug test?
      Does any ingredient listed on the package contains prohibited
      substance?
      Can I trust that the label has included all ingredients inside the
      product?
      Is it likely that the product can be contaminated by prohibited
      substances during the production process?