Dutch programme ensures sports supplements safety

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

The recent food supplements contamination case that led to banning
from competition of a number of Greek weightlifters, would never
have happened in the Netherlands, according to the trade
association there.

The Dutch Association of Natural Products Manufacturers (NPN) says a programme that allows supplements manufactures to have their products tested to World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) standards, meant there had been no contamination problem in the Netherlands since the programme's inception in 2001. Under the system, companies pay the NPN offshoot, Netherlands Security System Nutritional Supplements Elite Sports (NZVT) a fee of between €550 and €800 to have their products tested in a Cologne lab set up to meet WADA requirements. If found to be free of contaminants, products are publicised on a "positive list"​ on the NZVT website. More than 50 brands are represented there from vitamin and mineral supplements to creatine supplements to protein powders. Brands that fail - and only one has in the previous year - are not publicised in any way and can submit their products for retesting. While the testing is not an official guarantee the products are safe, no product that has passed the testing has caused a contaminates problem. Need for testing ​ The Dutch programme began in 2001 by giving athletes going to the 2002 Salt Lake City winter Olympics the chance to have the supplements they were consuming tested for doping substances. Athletes passed in 69 products of which 15 (22 per cent) were contaminated. NPN director Saskia Geurts told NutraIngredients.com that the system allowed Dutch athletes a piece of mind not afforded others in most other European countries, not to mention companies that participate in the programme and the wider supplements industry. "There have been no contamination problems in the Netherlands since the programme began which speaks for itself,"​ Geurts said. "So obviously it helps athletes but there is a great benefit to industry as well because incidents like the one in Greece can tarnish the wider industry."​ The entire Greek weightlifting team may be barred from attending the Beijing Olympics in August after random testing revealed 11 members had prohibited WADA substances in their bodies. A Chinese manufacturer of supplements the team had been using admitted its products may have been contaminated with illegal steroids, opiates and other substances - an admission that meant little to WADA which places all responsibility for bodily inputs on athletes and their representative organisations. But it's an admission that provokes questions about the quality and safety of food supplements among sections of the public. Thresholds ​The Dutch programme exists because of the discrepancy between the ultra-high level of ingredient purity required by WADA and lower thresholds that are deemed safe for the population. WADA thresholds are not set for public safety - they are uncompromising because they are trying to weed out drug cheats. With this in mind the NZVT tests products under the following criteria: 1) the amount which causes a positive outcome at the doping control 2) the daily amount of nutritional supplements an athlete could reasonably consume and 3) a safety factor for the purpose of individual physiological variations A similar system is in place in the UK where, despite UK Athletics recommending athletes abstain from supplements use because their safety cannot be guaranteed, a laboratory called HFL tests products to WADA standards. It publishes a positive list on its website that includes products such as a variety of Lucozade sports drink and gel products and other supplements typically used by sports people.

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