NSF program could encourage athletes' supplement use

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: World anti-doping agency

The Canadian Center for Ethics In Sport (CCES) has teamed up with
NSF International over a supplements certification program intended
to minimize the risk of products used by athletes containing
substances prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) - a
move that could spark more supplement use among sportspeople.

Under the WADA code, athletes are responsible for any banned substance found to be in their body during anti-doping tests, and in the past professional sportspeople testing positive have claimed the supplements they took must have been contaminated.

CCES' newly-announced recognition that the NSF Certified For Sport mark indicates that sports nutrition products have undergone stringent review through NSF's dedicated certification program may be a source of reassurance to Canadian athletes. It may also encourage more people to try products they have previously avoided due to contamination fears.

According to CCES, "an overwhelming majority"​ of Canadian national team athletes believe nutritional products may help them to meet the heavy demands of their training, travel and competition schedules.

Joseph de Pencier, director of ethics and anti-doping services and general counsel for the center said: "While the CCES does not promote the use of supplements, we do recogize that athletes use them. Therefore we need to assist our athletes in choosing the most trustworthy source."

Some industry sources have suggested that supplements are being used as a scapegoat, as guilty sportspeople seek to exonerate themselves from intentional drug use - accusations that could damage the entire supplements industry.

In a joint statement issued last year, US industry associations urging athletes to release the names of the products they allege are contaminated, together with the analytical results on which their claims are based.

"The health supplement industry is committed to do what it can to ensure products taken by anyone - whether elite athletes or the common consumer - contain exactly what is stated on the label,"​ they said. "But broad allegations against the entire class of products are inaccurate and cannot be tolerated."

They added that the FDA should be swift to investigate the presence of undeclared and illegal ingredients in health supplements, saying that products containing steroids are illegal drugs even if they are labeled as 'dietary supplements'. If such products are in existence, then it would appear that there is inadequate enforcement in place.

Nonetheless, NSF's move may be a shrewd one. By signing up to the program, supplement companies are armed against accusations, which may be damaging to business even if investigations show them to be unfounded.

NNSF's Athletic Banned Substances Certification Program's aims are threefold: to protect against adulteration of products; verify label claims; and identify prohibited substances in finished products.

It involves product testing for prohibited substances, confirmation of label content, formulation and label review, inspections of facilities, and on-going monitoring. The company said that the program has its roots in good manufacturing practices, under which products are certified contaminant-free and label claims are independently reviewed.

However this particular program excludes ingredient suppliers, manufacturers and finished product companies that deal with steroids, steroid precursors or any other prohibited substance at any stage of the supply chain.

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