Winter supplements warning

  • Integrity Blog

Supplements are not only protein powder, but they can also include vitamin tablets or herbal products.

Supplements are not regulated in the same way as medicines; therefore, they can contain substances not listed on the label.

Although pure herbal ingredients appear benign when they are processed to manufacture supplements, their safety cannot be guaranteed.

Supplements are at greater risk from cross-contamination from other substances manufactured on the same equipment. Because of this risk, Sport Integrity Australia’s advice is that no supplement is 100% safe to use, and athletes should not risk their careers by taking a supplement.

A survey of Australian supplements (2016 LGC Survey) discovered that 1 of every 5 supplements tested contained a prohibited substance not listed on the label. Under the World Anti-Doping Code's strict liability principle, athletes are ultimately responsible for any substance found in their body, regardless of how it got there. As such, Sport Integrity Australia cautions athletes to carefully consider their use of supplements.

If supplements are deemed necessary, athletes must ensure their products  are batch-tested, by using the Sport Integrity App (found on Google Play or the App Store).

It is also important for athletes competing in sports governed by a World Anti-Doping Code compliant anti-doping policy to be aware that they can’t just take any drug or medication. Some common cold and flu tablets and decongestant medications contain pseudoephedrine, which is banned in-competition, even asthma medication has restrictions on the dose that maybe taken during competition (Status of asthma medication in sport | Sport Integrity Australia).

“Not all cold and flu medications are the same” says Dr Naomi Speers, Chief Science Officer. “Some do contain prohibited substances. It is important for athletes to be careful when checking their medications. Common ingredients such as phenylephrine and pseudoephedrine, sound similar however one is prohibited and the other not.” 

All athletes are advised to check their medications on GlobalDRO to see if there are any restrictions in taking their medication in or out of competition. If there are any concerns athletes are encouraged to talk to their GP about finding a permitted alternative.