How often are supplements tainted or contaminated?

So in the last post we discussed the fact that an athlete is responsible for whatever goes into his  or her body, and that it doesn't matter if a banned substance was ingested unintentionally.  If they find it in your system, you are going to  get banned.   Even if it was an accident, and even if it was in non-therapeutic dosage.   So how often  are supplements contaminated?   In 2002 the IOC issued a  report that found that 14.8% of the supplements they tested  were contaminated with testosterone or related compounds, 18.8 % of the supplements  that originated in the US were contaminated.  That is 1 out of 5!  But wait,, it gets worse.... A 2004 study published in the journal Sports Medicine,  found that 40% of the supplements they tested were contaminated with either prohormones or  or stimulants that could cause an athlete to test positive for a banned substance!  Not good.   That is almost half.     I'm not suggesting that a full 40% of all supplements out there are contaminated.  A full 40% of the supplements in that one study were contaminated, but the researches chose mostly  protein powders/muscle building supplements and weight loss supplements.  It is definitely possible that those classes of supplements are more likely than others to be contaminated, but that isn't really the point either.     The point is that  supplement contamination is real and you can get into real trouble if you accidentally take a contaminated supplement.      What is the best way to ameliorate those risks?  Avoiding  supplements in general is probably the best way to avoid accidental ingestion of a banned substance.   If you really want to take supplements though,  there is an independent testing organization called NSF that tests products  (www.nsfsport.com).  This organization runs completely independently of the supplement companies, tests their products for contamination, ensures that the label accurately reflects what is in the product inspects their facilities, and will only give their stamp of approval  once their rigorous standards have been met.    NSF even does random " marketplace testing", meaning they don't just  test the stuff the companies give them.  They go to the store and randomly buy the supplements off the shelves and test those  as well.        I am generally of the opinion that most supplements are not worthwhile, but there are a few that are worth taking for some athletes ( that belongs is another post).  If you absolutely must take a supplement, my suggestion is that you march on over to http://www.nsfsport.com now, and search their list of certified products.    You'll get no promises from me, but that is probably  the best way to make sure you stay clean.  

Sean

 

Sources:

IOC Report on Supplement contamination: http://www.edb.utexas.edu/ssn/SN_Papers/IOC%20alert-Supplement.pdf

 

Sports Medicine Journal Article on   Tainted supplements: http://www.ajol.info/index.php/sasma/article/viewFile/31857/23634