Here is some excerpt of an article published on the www.lawinsport.com website regarding the use of supplements by athletes.The article was written by Tom Rudkin David Herbert and published on March 9, 2015. It is visible in full on www.lawinsport.com/articles/item/thedoping-risks-of-modern-sports-supplements-williams-warburton-v-ukad.

law in sport

ATHLETES ARE PERSONALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR SUPPLEMENT INTAKE

The risks associated with sporting supplements are well-known already. The perception is that supplements are widely used in sport for a variety of purposes such as recovery, increasing endurance or muscle growth. This can largely be attributed to the ever finer margins between success and failure in sport and the increasing pressure to be, say, as strong or as fast as possible. But the risk that they contain prohibited substances or are contaminated with such substances is continually present. Generally, a number of sportsmen and women have been suspended due to positive tests caused by supplements (albeit not always contaminated). These include Asafa Powell (the Jamaican 100m sprinter), Marin Cilic (the Croatian tennis player and reigning US Open Champion) and the young Scottish rugby player Sam Chalmers, who has since spoken out about the risks associated with supplements as well as the pressure he felt under to “be bigger” and the importance of not giving into such pressure.

As regards contamination, research conducted by the HFL Sport Science laboratory in 2013 found that 10% of products within a survey of some of Europe’s top supplement brands were contaminated with steroids and stimulants. And an earlier survey funded by the International Olympic Committee in 2001 found that close to 15% of over 600 products were contaminated. Needless to say, these are significant proportions.

UKAD’s website (www.ukad.org.uk/athlets/performance/supplements) has an entire page dedicated to the subject of supplements, highlighting the real risk of supplements containing prohibited substances, whether as a result of contamination or not. Anyone considering using supplements is encouraged, first, to assess the need for supplements (considering whether nutritional needs can be met by a good, balanced diet instead) and, if they still choose to use them, to assess “the associated risks and make informed decisions about the products they opt to use” and to “remember strict liability”. Importantly, they are also reminded that “it is not possible to provide a 100 per cent guarantee that any supplement is totally free of contamination”. Similar messages are included on the websites for a number of sports governing bodies including the Football Association, the Rugby Football Union, the Rugby Football League, UK Athletics and the England and Wales Cricket Board.

The key message promoted by all these organisations is that using any supplement will always carry with it some degree of risk. With strict liability in mind, the responsibility (to oneself as much as anyone else) to analyse the risk of supplements is clear for anyone considering using them.*

To minimize the risks of using supplements containing prohibited substances, the athletes can refer to the www.informed-sport.com website. Informed-Sport is “a quality assurance programme for sports nutrition products, suppliers to the sport nutrition industry and supplement manufacturing facilities. The program certifies that all nutritional supplements and/or ingredients that bear the Informed-Sport logo have been tested for banned substances by the world class sports anti-doping lab, LGC”. On this site, athletes can search for products that have been through this certification process. This does not remove the strict liability of the athletes as explained in the quoted article above but minimizes the risks. This only applies to athletes and does not concern dog food supplements which bear an even higher risk of containing, voluntarily or involuntarily, forbidden substances.

Bernard Pepin
ADC Chair

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