You should ALWAYS check that your supplements are third-party, batch-tested, but even then NO supplement is 100% guaranteed safe.
Contamination of Supplements is not rare
A high percentage of supplements contain ingredients that are not listed. We see this time and time again in studies. Contamination of supplements is not rare.
All of the following studies found androgens (steroids) or other banned substances in over the counter sport supplements. NONE of the supplements stated that they contained these banned substances in their ingredients lists.
Cooper et al., 2018: 5% of tested supplements contained steroids.
The Australian Supplement Survey Summary found 19% of tested products showed evidence of 1 or more prohibited substances.
Baume et al., 2005: 18% of supplements were contaminated
Geyer et al., 2004: 14.8% contained steroids not declared on the label
A 2017 review by Martínez Sanz et al. found contamination rates between 12% and 58%
By taking supplements, you may be unintentionally doping. The risk is higher if your supplements are not third-party, batch-tested.
Do you even need supplements as an athlete?
Reminder: My background is as an exercise scientist. You should ALWAYS speak with a registered dietitian for personalised nutritional advice!
That being said, social media is a hellscape of mis- and disinformation when it comes to health, fitness, and performance. This quote from the IOC consensus statement on supplements for high performing athletes is telling:
“Only a few [supplements] (including caffeine, creatine, specific buffering agents and nitrate) have good evidence of benefits.”
If you consume a prohibited substance, you can be banned from sport for up to 4 years
There are no exceptions – even if you didn’t know there was a banned substance in your supplement, according to the World Anti-Doping Code’s strict liability principle, athletes are ultimately responsible for any substance found in their body, no matter how it got there.
If you’re going to take supplements, here’s what to be aware of:
If a registered dietitian has established that supplementation is a good idea for you, here’s what to be aware of:
- Be aware of what is on the WADA prohibited list. Find it at http://www.wada-ama.org
2. Use a local substance checking website or app (or one specific to your sport federation) to find third-party, batch-tested supplements. You must check that the batch number of the supplement you are buying matches the tested batch number.
3. If in doubt – avoid it. And make sure you’re meeting your dietary requirements through whole foods first and foremost.
No supplement can be guaranteed safe.
This quote from Sport Integrity Australia is important to keep in mind:
“Although batch tested products are the lowest risk supplements, they do not provide a guarantee against testing positive, and you can still face anti-doping sanctions if you test positive from one of these products.
Remember, no supplement is 100% safe. The only way to have zero risk, is to take zero supplements.”
Questions? Let me know!
A reminder again for good measure: My background is as an exercise scientist. You should ALWAYS speak with a registered dietitian for targeted nutritional advice!