Supplements, why Take the Risk?
Contaminated supplements have been blamed for a number of positive drug tests in recent years, and the situation is not improving.
The Olympic Movement and many national drug agencies now have a policy of "strict liability", whereby individual athletes are solely responsible for whatever substance that is found in their bodies. It doesn't matter whether the banned substance was taken inadvertently or not. The fact that it is there is enough for them to test positive, and thereby attract a suspension.
In 2000, a British review panel concluded that the risk of ingesting nandrolone via the "normal everyday consumption of food" was negligible. However, they did note that "athletes could be at risk if they consumed supplements which have little or no regulation of their contents."
Supplement Contamination Issue
In October 2000, the IOC commissioned a study on the prevalence of banned substances in nutritional supplements.
A total of 634 non-hormonal nutritional supplements from 13 countries and 215 different suppliers were tested in the study. The results showed that an incredible 94 samples (14.8%) were found to contain unlisted substances that would lead to a positive doping test.
"The IOC hopes the results of this study demonstrate to governments and the industry the need for greater quality control to ensure substances not found on the label are not found in the product. The IOC Medical Commission recommends controls, similar to those pertaining to the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, be applied to the production of nutritional supplements."
How Do Supplements Get Contaminated?
The lack of quality assurance is blamed for the high number of supplement contaminations.
On the basis of the Cologne study, it seems that the only way to guarantee you will never test positive from a contaminated supplement is not to buy one manufactured in the USA, the Netherlands, the UK, Italy or Germany. If all athletes boycotted these supplements, then the multi-billion dollar industry might wake up and call for more regulation.
Are Supplements Necessary?
The short answer to this question is a qualified "yes." Sports nutrition has come a long way in the last 20 years.