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Regulatory consistency lacking for sports supplement use, expert declares

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

The issue of supplement use and doping in sport has become a topical issue with many high-profile athletes falling foul of current laws. ©iStock
The issue of supplement use and doping in sport has become a topical issue with many high-profile athletes falling foul of current laws. ©iStock
Authorities have not paid enough attention to the issue of supplement contamination, failing to sufficiently investigate this issue, according to Luca Bucchini.

Speaking to an online audience gathered at NutraIngredients’ online event on Sports Nutrition, Bucchini argued that too often, on the supplemental side of regulation, there was no attempt to put together a coherent network and no monitoring programs on supplements in most places.

In addition, he added that there was no publicity against companies who disregarded the rules. 

“We need authorities to do more,”​ he said. “This includes a more thorough investigation of the supply chain.”

“In most cases of certification, more attention needs to be paid to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP),”​ he added.

Bucchini, ‎managing director at Hylobates Consulting, a food safety regulatory affairs consultancy, referred to inconsistencies in regulatory procedures that meant the sporting community remained in the dark around the use of certain supplements.

French risk assessment body, ANSES recently declared that DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) and PEA (phenylethylamine) were permitted for use in supplements within the EU.

This was despite the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) classifying these substances as banned.  

“Professional athletes and sports nutritionists often do not understand the rules on the doping side, or on the food supplement side,”​ he said.

“The challenge comes from a change of landscape. The international anti-doping community has been slow to accept that most athletes at all levels are taking supplements no matter what they are told, so they need pertinent advice.”

UK Anti-Doping input

John Brewer
'UK Anti-Doping's total budget for fighting doping in the UK was just a fraction more than the cost of winning one medal for Team GB.'©John Brewer

Bucchini was a guest panellist at the NutraIngredient’s online webinar entitled: ‘Pushing the boundaries: Where’s the line between ‘cutting edge nutrition’ and doping.’

Here, he was joined by Dr John Brewer, professor of Applied Sport Science & Head of School of Sport, Health & Applied Science, at St Mary's University, Twickenham.

He continued with the theme of inconsistencies that made the process of keeping sport free from performance-enhancing substances a difficult one. He spoke of wanting to see an increase in financial assistance.

“What I would like to see is greater funding from governments,”​ said Professor Brewer.

“I can only speak on behalf of UK Anti-Doping but if I tell you that our total budget for fighting doping in the UK was just a fraction more than the cost of winning one medal for Team GB.

“So the cost per medal in the Rio Olympic games was around £4m (€4.6m). The budget for UK Anti-Doping is £5m (€5.7m) per year.”

The full presentation is available to listen on demand, for free, here​.

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