Olympics supplement contamination concerns gain (yet) another airing

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: World anti-doping agency

Olympics supplement contamination concerns gain (yet) another airing
The issue of supplements contamination has been raised again ahead of the London Olympics next year by a Loughborough University academic who has warned of micro-contamination problems – inadvertent or otherwise.

Loughborough University Professor of Sport and Exercise Nutrition Professor Ron Maughan, who also chairs the Sports Nutrition Group of the International Olympic Committee Medical Commission, warned micro-dosing with substances like the anabolic steroid, nandrolone, remained an ongoing issue for athletes.

“It is now well established that many dietary supplements contain compounds that can cause an athlete to fail a doping test. In some cases the presence of these compounds is not declared on the product label,”​ Professor Maughan said.

“For some prohibited substances, the amount that will trigger a positive test is vanishingly small and may not be detected by routine analysis of the supplement.”

Informed Sport – a welcome step forward

But speaking this morning with NutraIngredients, Professor Maughan joined the likes of the trade group, the UK Council for Responsible Nutrition, in welcoming the existence of programmes like Informed Sport, which used third party testing to grant approvals to products that met strict testing.

“Informed Sport is not perfect but it is as good as it gets when it comes to guaranteeing supplement quality,” ​he said.

“It is a batch-testing system so it is not foolproof but it is a welcome step forward.”

The Informed Sport programme currently contains about 100 sports nutrition products made by the likes of Lucozade and MaxPerformance, and is backed by UK Athletics, which in 2008 shifted its position to support the use of food supplements by athletes if they could be verified as contaminant-free.

LGC-owned HFL is the third party tester involved in the Informed Sport programme and its chief executive, David Richardson​, said recently: “This enhanced analytical service offering by LGC will deliver real benefits to sports drug surveillance and doping control industry. With the up-coming 2012 Olympics, LGC is determined to take the lead in providing quality and outstanding customer service in this increasingly important area of sports science”

CRN technical director, Peter Berry Ottoway, said it was unfortunate that each Olympics was characterised by contamination scare stories in the run-up about the food supplements industry, despite the problems being caused by “vanishingly small”​ section of the industry.

“There are very few rogue manufacturers but they cause disproportionate effects. It should be considered that the European food supplements industry is one of the cleanest in the world and GMP standards here are generally higher than those that exist in the US for instance.”

The problem with the Olympics and other elite events is that trace levels that can cause doping violations, are often below normal manufacturing procedures.


“But perhaps these are questions as much for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) as they are for supplement manufacturers," ​said Professor Maughan. "But if you start getting into permissible thresholds, it raises many difficult questions of its own.”

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