Supplements blamed for NFL doping

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Dietary supplements

Dietary supplements have again been blamed for athletes not passing anti-doping tests, after six National Football League players were suspended this week.

At least some of the players, who tested positive for diuretics, had taken the weight-loss supplement branded as StarCaps.

In the announcement of the suspensions, NFL said it had warned front officers, trainers and players unions in December 2006 about the supplements. It said it had added the company that distributes StarCaps to its list of prohibited dietary supplement companies.

Athletic concerns

Doping concerns are a major bane for the dietary supplements industry, which bears the brunt of blame as a whole even when the contamination issues are linked only to certain irresponsible firms.

Many elite athletes are wary of consuming dietary supplements because of doping concerns, and there have been high-profile deaths including a professional baseball player who died in 2003 after consuming the herbal weight loss product ephedra.

Ephedra was banned by the Food and Drug Administration the following year.

NFL

The six NFL players involved in the most recent scandal are: Pat Williams and Kevin Williams of the Minnesota Vikings; Charles Grant, Deuce McAllister and Will Smith of the New Orleans Saints; and Bryan Pittman of the Houston Texans.

They tested positive for diuretics, and the StarCaps supplements were found to contain the banned substance diuretic bumetanide. Diuretics can serve as masking agents for steroids.

Industry campaign

As the supplements industry attempts to protect its image and credibility in light of bad publicity, it launched a new campaign earlier this year designed to educate government about the role that supplements play in sports nutrition.

The Congressional Dietary Supplement Caucus will communicate such messages and will conduct a series of meetings being held in cooperation with the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) and the Natural Products Association (NPA).

The first meeting with key personnel saw more than 70 delegates attending the lunch briefing in Washington DC, where they were informed about some of the truths and misconceptions surrounding the issue.

"We want members of Congress and their staffers to know that dietary supplements are not steroids - nor are they substitutes or replacements for hard work and determination,"​ said Steve Mister, president and chief executive officer of CRN. "But along with rigorous training and healthy diets, supplements are mainstream, safe and effective products that athletes should feel comfortable and confident taking."

Quality

The implementation of new Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) for dietary supplements will also play a large role in ensuring quality.

Companies of more than 500 employees were required to comply with the new quality regulations in June this year. Smaller companies have a period of grace of another one or two years to bring their own operations within GMP parameters.

Despite concerns, sales of sports supplements remain robust in a range of areas from joint health, to muscle building and repair to energy enhancement.

Nutrition Business Journal​ puts the sports supplements market at $2.5 billion in 2007, eight percent more than 2006.

Related topics: Suppliers, GMPs, QA & QC

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