Is your supplement safe?

  • Integrity Blog

A 2016 survey found that of 67 common Australian supplements analysed, almost one in five contained banned substances. 

Importantly, none of those products surveyed listed any banned substances on their ingredients list. 

David Sharpe, Sport Integrity Australia’s Chief Executive Officer, says Higenamine, commonly found in supplements, was the substance most commonly identified in positive tests in 2016. 

“It is still a major problem in sport - only this month, two Australian athletes tested positive to the substance,” Sharpe says. 

“This research supports Sport Integrity Australia’s long-standing warning for athletes about the risks of using supplements.” 

He says Sport Integrity Australia encourages all athletes to think seriously about whether the supplements they are taking are safe, effective and even necessary. 

“It is important for athletes to understand the risks that these products may present to their health, career and reputation. 

“Athletes using supplements do so at their own risk because they can be contaminated with prohibited substances.” 

Under the World Anti-Doping Code’s principle of strict liability, athletes are responsible for any substance found in their body. 

Intelligence suggests doping is now occurring in recreational sport and across age groups, Sharpe says. 

It is probable that the apparent spread of doping throughout sport in Australia reflects a broader normalisation of the use of supplements and Performance and Image Enhancing Drugs (PIEDs) within the general community. 

“While the link between supplement use and doping in Australia is unclear, research suggests that the path to doping for individual athletes is incremental,” he says. 

It begins with a focus on the right nutrition and lifestyle and then progresses to nutritional supplements. It then moves to “grey zone” supplements and over the counter medicines to prohibited substances. 

The substances most commonly detected in athletes returning a positive drug test were WADA Category S6 – Stimulants, which collectively accounted for the highest percentage of positive tests (33%). 

“These stimulants are most likely to be found in supplements and medications.” 

Sharpe says inadvertent ingestion of banned substances not listed on the ingredients label could be one of the leading causes of these positive tests. 

“You can’t assume that every ingredient is listed on the bottle,” Sharpe says. “Athletes have been banned from sport for making this mistake.” 

He says because supplement manufacturing processes can lead to their contents varying from batch to batch, Sport Integrity Australia cannot give any specific supplement the all-clear. 

“If you do choose to use supplements, to reduce your risk we recommend checking your supplement on the Clean Sport app.” 

To download the app, go to the iTunes App store or the Google Play Store

Doping can be reported confidentially via the Raise a concern form on this website, or by calling 13 000 27232. 

Survey conducted by life science company LGC: the Australian Supplements Survey analysed 67 common supplement products available for purchase in Australia.