“The supplements question is the one question that I hate within my role,” UKA anti-doping education officer David Walsh said In an interview with UK-based Athletics Weekly.
“It’s the only question that I can’t give a definite answer to. And I hate not being able to give a definite answer.”
In such an environment Walsh said schemes like the UK-based HFL Sport Science 'Informed Sport' programme offered some piece of mind to athletes, where company’s paid to have batch samples tested. If they passed they could apply a certified logo to their products.
But LGC-owned HFL voluntarily gave up its World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) accreditation in 2007 as WADA forbids third party testers taking payment from supplement manufacturers.
Jamaica’s Powell pleaded innocence and passed the buck for his doping control fail to contaminated food supplements, a position that has been used by athletes with varying rates of success (usually low) over the years.
Contamination with steroids and stimulants and other substances does occur in food and sports supplements – as it does in any sector of the food industry, but the sports category often gains more attention than most due to the extreme scrutiny afforded to elite athlete bodily inputs by anti-doping authorities.
“With supplements you can’t give 100% guarantees,” Walsh said.
“This is simply because if you look at the WADA list it says ‘this substance, this substance and similar substances’, so that leaves it open for anything else that has been developed.”
“And if you’re testing for a range of banned substances within a supplement, if there’s something out there that you don’t know about – and that you’re not testing for – then you can’t say that the supplement is 100% clean. You can say that it’s tested for this list and nothing’s been found, but that doesn’t mean it’s 100% clean, which is a tricky place to be.”
The European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA) defended the sector saying, "the fact is that the quality of sports nutrition products is even more rigorously controlled than that of ordinary foodstuffs.”
A recent HFL survey of 114 samples from 12 major brands across Europe found 11 were contaminated.
Late last year the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) told mostly online retailers to remove 84 sports nutrition products its tests showed to be contaminated with steroids, stimulants and hormones after it targeted the sector.