Olympic athletes at risk from popular supplements

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Olympic games

How many athletes know the risks they run with dietary supplements?
How many athletes know the risks they run with dietary supplements?
Many athletes at this year's London Olympics could be at risk of disqualification because of their use of popular dietary supplements.

Unknown to many athletes, supplement use could either be illegal or raise levels of certain active ingredients in their bodies above permitted limits, according to the President of the US Institute of Food Technologists.

Dr Roger Clemens, who is also Professor of Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of South Carolina School of Pharmacy, also called for tougher controls on what claims are allowed for supplements targeted at elite athletes and others.

While many supplements are legal in different countries, such as the US, they can be illegal under International Olympic Committee rules, he warned.

Fatal harm

Also, until supplement suppliers are forced to provide evidence for their labelling and web site claims, more athletes are likely to damage their health and cause fatal harm by taking short cuts to improved performance rather than using a combination of training and a good nutritional intake, Clemens added.

Clemens was giving the annual Binsted Lecture, held as part of the Institute of Food Science & Technology's (IFST's) Spring Conference last month. His paper was titled: Nutrition's contribution to sport performance: realities and myths​. The IFST's conference was on the subject of Nutrition for olympians: nutrition for all.

While controls on doping will be tight at this summer's Olympic games, many athletes will be taking supplements also known as "ergogenic aids"​ such as caffeine which, unknown to them can sometimes be in quantities that push the boundaries of legality. A number of supplements also have questionable benefits and could even cause long-term health damage, Clemens reported.

He said there was a lack of published peer-reviewed scientific evidence for many of these supplements, from sports drinks and multivitamins to specialist muscle tissue development aids such as creatine. "We really need to advise our athletes what are in the dietary supplements,"​ he added.

Gets hurt

"My concern is that many of the things we see on labels and web sites are not substantiated or supported by the evidence or any evidence whatsoever,"​ said Clemens. "They should be required to have the evidence to support it ... It's not likely the FDA​ [Food and Drug Administration] will take any action on​ [supplements] until somebody gets hurt."

He added: "We clearly need evidence-based positioning on products that are sold on the market today … hopefully there would be some harmonisation​ [around the world] ultimately."

Clemens also predicted that over the next decade or so genetic profiling of athletes would become the norm in an attempt to match their fitness programmes and dietary nutrition to their DNA.

Related topics Suppliers Energy

Related news

Related products

Nootropics Report 2.0: Brain Health Insights

Nootropics Report 2.0: Brain Health Insights

Content provided by dsm-firmenich | 20-Feb-2024 | Insight Guide

The brain health market is constantly growing and evolving, with more consumers looking for innovative ways to support total mind and body wellness.

Full Vegan Protein Ingredients Solution

Full Vegan Protein Ingredients Solution

Content provided by Ingredients4u AG | 24-Jul-2023 | Product Brochure

Plant-based products have always been a hot topic in the market, the plant-based food market was valued at $29.4 billion in 2020.

Robuvit® for Natural Energy and Mitochondrial Support

Robuvit® for Natural Energy and Mitochondrial Support

Content provided by Horphag Research | 01-May-2023 | Clinical Study

Robuvit® French oak extract is a caffeine-free natural energizer that provides support for managing fatigue and improving energy levels. Learn how this...

Related suppliers


in 2009?

Posted by Kate B,

Well it's not 2009 anymore and people are getting sick, and spending money on supplements that don't have the correct information on the labels. Lots of people die every year of all sorts of things... so that's a terrible outlok to have. Supplements should be safer to take and companies should be willing to go the extra mile to ensure the products they are making actually do what they claim.

Report abuse

comments without any substantiated facts.

Posted by Robert J Simons,

Where is the list of bad actors.

Report abuse

As opposed to prescription safety and efficacy?

Posted by patricia hetherington,

I'm always fascinated by what a bad rap supplements get when in 2009, for example, NO ONE died from supplements and thousands died from pharmaceuticals. Give me a break.

Report abuse

Follow us


View more