Take supplements "at your own risk"

  • Integrity Blog

ASADA’s long standing advice is that no supplement is safe to use, and athletes should not risk their careers by taking a supplement.

Sport Integrity Australia’s advice is that no supplement is safe to use, and athletes should not risk their careers by taking a supplement. CEO David Sharpe says Sport Integrity Australia does not approve or endorse any supplements. 

“We have not and will not approve or endorse supplements, they pose too much of a risk to an athlete’s health and career,” Mr Sharpe says. 

Supplements are the largest cause of inadvertent doping cases in Australia, Mr Sharpe says, with many anti-doping rule violations (sport bans) in Australia over the past five years associated with supplement use. 

It is estimated almost 45 per cent of 14-16-year-olds are using supplements or protein powders so “we need to educate what the dangers of that are”. A 2016 survey found that of the 67 common Australian supplements analysed, almost one in five contained banned substances

“Worryingly, none of those products surveyed listed any banned substances on their ingredients list.” 

Supplements can be accidentally cross contaminated by other substances made in the same factory, Sharpe says, or can contain prohibited substances deliberately included, but not included in the list of ingredients on labels. He advises athletes if they are still considering taking supplements to first check the Clean Sport app. 

“The app gives athletes access to information of supplements sold in Australia that have been screened for World Anti-Doping Code (WADC) prohibited substances by an independent laboratory,” he says. However, “anything you take you do so at your own risk”, he cautions. 

“These companies cannot offer a 100% guarantee that an athlete will not test positive for the supplements they screen, but batch-tested products are significantly less risky than other supplements.” 

Dr David Hughes, Chief Medical Officer at the AIS and Medical Director of the Australian Tokyo Olympic Team, concurs, describing supplements as expensive urine. There are increasing rates of individuals presenting at emergency departments with side effects from taking supplements, he warns. 

“Those side effects can include heart arrhythmias, anxiety, panic attacks, nausea, vomiting and a range of other conditions,” Dr Hughes says. “We have known people who have gone into liver failure as a result of taking supplements.” 

Before taking any supplements, Dr Hughes recommends athletes seek the advice of their doctor or sports dietician about whether they really need them, or whether changes to their diet or training program could get better results instead. 

“In the vast majority of cases supplements are not required if you have good diet, if you get good sleep and if you undertake good scientifically based training.” 

  • Sport Integrity Australia recommends you check all your substances before you take them on the Sport Integrity app

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