27th February 2015
The recent doping scandal in swimming involving Olympic medallist Park Tae-Hwan should serve as a warning to all athletes. As should the case of Welsh rugby player Lee Evans. Both were tested positive after taking supplements.
It seems the biggest problem facing top athletes at moment is that of inadvertent doping. You think you’re taking a dietary supplement ‘just like all the other guys’ and then: wham! you fail a drugs test and find yourself facing a ban. Before you take your next recovery shake, energy drink or muscle-building potion, here are 5 crucial things you need to know
- Supplements may not contain what’s on the label. As Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson found out after testing positive for banned drug oxilofrine that wasn’t on the label of their supplement (Epiphany D1). They are planning to sue but, sadly, their reputations have been damaged. A recent survey found 4 out of 5 herbal products were fraudulent. The problem is there is no systematic regulation of supplements (unlike prescription medicines), which means there’s no official check on safety or quality.
- Your supplement may be contaminated – and you can’t just blame the manufacturer as the two Welsh athletes, Rhys Williams and Gareth Warburton found out; they received four and six-month bans after “not knowingly” taking Mountain Fuel supplements contaminated with an anabolic steroid.
- Don’t assume its legal – even if you bought it in a shop. A recent survey by King’s College London found that 23 out of 24 products marketed as ‘prohormones’ and sold openly in shops contained banned anabolic steroids. Not only could you risk failing a doping test but you also risk serious harm to your health.
- Take full responsibility. UKAD have a policy of strict liability, which also means you take supplements at your own risk, and cannot claim you didn’t know what you were taking. This is something world record swimmer, Yuliya Efimova should have known before testing positive for DHEA, despite it being clearly listed as an ingredient on the label of the product. Similarly, in Tyson Gay’s case, the label clearly stated testosterone and DHEA.
- There are no guarantees that any supplement product is free from prohibited substances. But you can drastically cut the risk by making sure your supplement is batch tested – look for the Informed Sport logo on the label and check the batch number on the website.
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