The risk of an inadvertent positive doping test is a very real problem facing athletes who compete in events governed by anti-doping rules. Several studies have found banned stimulants and anabolic agents detected in dietary supplements bought over the counter. Are you leaving yourself open to this?

Dietary supplements can broadly be categorised into ‘sports-foods’ and ‘ergogenic aids’. Sports foods could be meal replacements or protein drinks, often used for their convenience or at times when managing whole food meals is impractical. Ergogenic aids can be substances found in the diet but not at the concentrations required to have a positive effect upon performance. Creatine, the most studied of these is a good example.

Whatever the form of dietary supplement you include in your program, it is important to realise that the production methods and the quality controls you may expect to be present, are not as tightly controlled as other industries producing goods for human consumption. The centre for preventive doping research at the German sport university in Cologne has shown that in one study approximately 15% of non-hormonal supplements were contaminated with anabolic-androgenic steroids!

Contamination most likely occurs in factories where both legal and non-legal supplements are produced. However the raw materials may also be responsible if they are stored in warehouses containing banned substances such as pro-hormones. Essentially the cause is unimportant; the result is an elite athlete failing a test through naive behaviour.

Overcoming these issues is paramount to ensure clean sporting arenas across the world. The simplest solution is not to use supplements at all. Practically however this is unrealistic as athletes are always looking for that ‘magic bullet’ to speed up recovery or knock that extra second off a lap time.

One answer is the ‘Informed Sport’ program being used in the UK now. This uses the HFL sport science doping control and research laboratory, which is renowned for its research and testing procedures. Here companies can have batches of their product tested for anabolic agents, stimulants, recreational drugs, masking agents, etc.

Remember, this does not guarantee complete safety but it is easily the best solution currently. Hopefully the program will continue to grow and the legislation passed to ensure the production of nutritional supplements is done under strict guidelines and controls.

The message to all athletes open to drug testing is that you alone have the responsibility for what you put into your body. Educate yourself before using any product and source it from a company that batch test their products.