Don’t be a Dope!
Safe Supplements & Drug Free Sport
By Karl Bickley
The contentious issue of drug free sport is always a controversial but highly discussed topic across the world, whether it be someone failing a drug test, refusing a drug test or an ‘inhumane’ feet of athletic performance that prompts questions of doping. The sporting world is filled with headlines of high-profile doping failures and accusations of doping that typifies the interest in, and the perception that utilisation of illegal compounds is now widely spread across all aspects of sport. Indeed competitors in a sport often become tarnished by the same brush if one high profile athlete from their chosen sport is found to have used a performance enhancer. Do we think that all elite sprinters are ‘clean” or Tour de France riders….probably not, given recent history.
So is there such a thing as a clean athlete?
The World Anti-doping Agency’s (WADA) code was created initially in January 2004 and was reviewed under consultation in 2006, with final amendments being made in November 2007 for implementation from the 1st January 2009. Its purpose was to provide a set of harmonized rules which could be adopted by sporting associations and disciplines across the globe, the main goal behind them is to “…seek to preserve what is intrinsically valuable about sport. This intrinsic value is often referred to as, “the spirit of sport”, it is the essence of Olympism; it is how we play true”
Each individual athlete is made aware by their governing body or sport of the testing procedure and the list of substances classified as ‘Banned for use by the code’. In the code of Conduct, WADA state that, “Athletes or other Persons shall be responsible for knowing what constitutes an anti-doping rule violation and the substances and methods which have been included on the Prohibited List”. This identifies that it is clearly is the responsibility of the athletes and their individual or collective support structure to ensure they remain free from any banned substance or performance enhancer. Most professional/elite clubs or governing bodies will make the athletes sign an agreement accepting these rules and the ramifications of any doping offense. In addition, regular updates and information on changes to procedures and additions to the banned substances are often communicated to athletes, coaches, officials and medical staff to ensure they are always aware of the latest developments and warning not just to prevent cheating but also for health implications.
The recent weeks have seen three very high profile doping failures in the world of athletics and continual questions regarding the use of illegal substances in the Tour De France. In regard to the later it can seem that not one day passed without the leading riders being asked about the use of drugs. This once again highlights the media and public interest in the subject of doping in sport. While some of the recent failures have seen athletes saying they had been let down by people they trusted or did not knowingly take a prohibited substance and however truthful or valid these statements are, the standpoint on this is clear. WADA states that, “It is each Athlete’s personal duty to ensure that no Prohibited Substance enters his or her body”. If you compete in a drug free, WADA regulated or drug tested sport then you sign up and are aware of the rules and regulations around using performance enhancing drugs and the substances that are not permitted. A simple google search will produce lists of compounds and sub-compounds that are banned for use and also a list of over the counter medication that should also be avoided (these can contain banned substances).
This is where the questions surrounding doping becomes complicated and so the importance of education and awareness should be at the forefront of every competitor’s mind, “Athletes or other Persons shall be responsible for knowing what constitutes an anti-doping rule violation and the substances and methods which have been included on the Prohibited List”, shows how the collective members of WADA feel about this. There are some or an element to failed tests that are not just based around chemicals designed to unfairly maximise performance but relate to individuals who fail on medicinal compounds found in cold, flu and hayfever treatments for example. This means that each athlete should refrain from the purchase of over the counter medications without researching the medicine and its compounds, or should rely on prescribed medications from a medical professional. This however does mean the athlete is required to put an element of trust in a doctor or medic and their understanding of the code and the need to apply for a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) should the required medication be on the banned substance list. If you are bound by the WADA code and in need of more information, you can refer to the UKAD website or the GLOBAL DRO (www.globaldro.com) database for information on banned substances that appear in medication that also includes a cross reference to check specifically to your sport and governing body.
The issue of doping and the continual speculation regarding performance enhancers also creates the need for additional security and protections from sports nutrition and hydration companies who work closely with professional athletes. The use of sports nutrition and supplements for enhanced legal gains in strength and power and for preparation, recovery and performance is a common practice at all levels of sport. The formulations of which are designed to help the athletes maximise their human performance. This means that companies such as USN work hard to ensure that products comply with WADA coding. Aside of the huge amounts of time and money invested in research and development and the utilisation the latest sports science and nutrition findings, we have to consider the compliance of the product not just for the now but also for the future based on any forthcoming rule changes.
There are two different programmes that provide extra assurances to the athlete and greater protection to the brand when it comes to ensuring products remain contaminant free and safe to use in conjunction with the WADA code. These both offer assurances that the products are contaminant free based on the list of banned substances quoted by WADA. It is essential to understand that these programmes offer a risk management solution. The first internationally recognised programme is ‘Informed Sport’ (IS) which is administered by HFL laboratories – the programme ensures all supplements and products that have passed the criteria for registration in the first instance and that manufacturing processes are clean and compliant. Following manufacture, products are released into consumer markets on positive release and each product and its batches are randomly selected and tested for known contaminants using a blind test system. This testing is left to the discretion of the IS programme with a minimum number of samples being tested each year. Products (including all flavour variants) listed by IS are required to carry the Informed Sport logo on the label. The logo will give a recognisable reference to a product which has been screened. All registered products and variants are also listed on the IS website.
The second testing programme is a custom testing process that is operated between the manufacturer and the testing facility. The tests are carried out at the same testing facility as the IS programme and offer slightly increased security to both the athlete and the sports nutrition brand. Custom testing covers testing from the comprehensive list of known contaminants that are banned by WADA. The main difference between the two testing procedures occurs during the screening process – the product will remain in quarantine and not distributed to teams, individuals or sold until the test results have come back and the certificate of analysis showing no contamination is issued. This product can then be given to the athlete or team along with a copy of the certificate (COA – certificate of authorisation). The majority of sports nutrition brands will not release this product into trade or to the massmarket and will instead sell or supply the product direct to the coach or individual thus creating a chain of custody that is traceable. At USN we have a separate agreement with the coach and individuals that covers our risk management processes and service level agreement, this is our commitment to ensure drug free sport and shows our dedication to the athlete and team to create a safe, secure and optimised supplementation strategy.
The cost implications of both programmes are extensive but it shows how supplement manufacturers take the issue of drug free sport seriously and provide heavy investment to guarantee clean products get to the performers who utilise their products. However, as the code states the athlete still remains ultimately responsible for any substance in their body. So, if you are an elite performer bound by WADA it is worth taking time to consider where you source your products and medicines from. Ask for the guarantees and assurances for the legitimacy or the screening of the product and contact your supplement company to investigate further what they do to screen for contamination. You should also register to use their websites for batch tested product purchases or check with your coach that the product you are taking has been screened for contaminants.
For more information – refer to the USN UK website www.usn.co.uk and register to use the athlete login section of the website at the bottom of the page.
Karl Bickley – is Athlete Liaison and Nutrition consultant at USN UK