Dispelling the myths
There is a misconception that dietary supplements are safe to use. Here are the common supplement myths and the truths that athletes need to know.
Myth 1 - there’s nothing banned on the supplement label, so I won’t test positive.
In 2016, life science company LGC conducted the Australian Supplements Survey, which analysed 67 common supplement products available for purchase in Australia. They found one in five products contained one or more substances banned in sport. Importantly, none of the products identified listed any banned substances on their ingredients list.
Myth 2 - athletes need to take supplements to get their best performance.
According to Professor Louise Burke, Head of Sports Nutrition at the Australian Sports Commission (now Sport Australia), the value you get when you are invested in long-term nutritional advice, particularly if it’s individualised to you, will be a lot better in the long run.
“To achieve your best performance, you need to consider your nutrition, competition strategies, how to fuel, how to hydrate, before even considering a supplement.”
This is called the Food First Philosophy, because real food and real nutrition are the most important ways to fuel your body.
Myth 3 - if I test positive from a supplement, I won’t be penalised.
Even if an athlete has demonstrated that their positive test originated from a contaminated dietary supplement, under the World Anti-Doping Code athletes are strictly responsible for any prohibited substance found in their body, regardless of how it got there.
Myth 4 - all herbal supplements can be used by athletes without a risk of testing positive.
Generally, herbal supplements are one of the riskiest kinds of products on the market because sometimes the amount of information about what’s in the product and the amount of variability that comes from within herbal products is so great that you really can’t be sure what you’re buying.
Note: Sport Integrity Australia’s long-standing advice is that no supplement is safe to use, and athletes should not risk their careers by taking a supplement.