Despite the risks, we know that many athletes do take supplements – a recent study suggests that 40-70% of athletes use supplements (Garth & Ramsbottom, 2020). As such, it is really important that you know how to make an informed choice, and below are a few key points to help you do this.
What are some of the risks?
- Manufacturing standards for supplements are often less thorough than for medicines. For example, many countries do not follow strict rules in the manufacturing and labelling of supplements, which may lead to a supplement containing an undeclared substance that is prohibited under anti-doping regulations.
- How ingredients are listed on supplement labels can be different to how they are listed on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List.
- Fake supplement products do exist – particularly online! Not only can those contain prohibited substances, but they can also be harmful to your health.
- Some supplements might claim to be endorsed by WADA or another anti-doping organisation – this is not true. Others may say they are “safe for athletes to use” – this may also be untrue.
What can I think about?
- Before taking supplements, consider whether a good diet and a “food-first” approach meets your training, competition and recovery needs.
- Talk to a professional for nutritional advice – a doctor or sports nutritionist who understands the anti-doping rules and knows that you are an athlete.
How can I minimise the risks if I decide to take supplements?
- Thoroughly research the supplement you plan to take including the labels, ingredients and quantities
- Seek advice from a medical professional
- Use only batch-tested supplements, screened by an independent company. These test things like the manufacturing equipment, ingredients and final product. This does not guarantee you will not test positive, but it will greatly reduce the risk.
- Keep the original supplement packaging or a photo of it. The most important information to keep on file is the name of the supplement, the brand name and the batch number. If you received medical advice to take supplements, keep a record of it as well.
Check your supplements:
For more information:
- Take an e-learning course on WADA’s Anti-Doping Education and Learning (ADEL) Both the “ADEL for National-Level Athletes” and “ADEL for International-Level Athletes” have a section dedicated to supplements. All ADEL courses are always free and available in multiple languages.
Remember that supplements can never be 100% safe to take, and it is important to weigh the benefits of taking supplements against the risks.
If you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out to us at [email protected].