Industry hopes Olympics will torch supplement contamination concerns

By Shane STARLING contact

- Last updated on GMT

The Olympic Games have in the past brought the food supplements industry to the edge of its collective seat – but not necessarily in fevered anticipation of the world-class sporting fare on offer as anti-doping scrutiny has raised contamination issues.

However better quality products, improved and more transparent supplement testing programmes coupled with more accurate and sophisticated anti-doping controls, mean the supplements industry – at least honest players – have little to worry about at next month’s London Olympics.

While acknowledging contamination issues have drawn unwanted attention at Olympiads past, Paul Brown, lab manager at reputed UK-based product tester, HFL Sport Science, points out that ever-heightened scrutiny around the nutritional inputs of elite athletes means there is a much reduced likelihood of a rogue product smiting an athlete – and besmirching the wider law-abiding industry.

Not that it is non-existent. On your marks: DMAA…

DMAA confusion

“Historically there have been issues associated with supplements and contamination and it is something that is still pointed at as being an issue within the sports supplement industry,”​ Brown said.

“A prime example in relation to that would be DMAA which we have seen over the last 12-18 months on the market,” ​Brown observed of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) prohibited stimulant that is also drawing regulator heat around the world as a potentially unsafe and illegal constituent of sports supplements – even for regular ol’ ‘Joe Gymgoer’.

That situation has filled ‘gym-goer bulletin boards’ all over the world with irate comment over the loss of a favoured aid, but the situation is even more extreme among elite athletes.

DMAA – which is often listed on-product under a profusion of monikers including 1,3-dimethylamylamine, methylhexaneamine and geranium oil – was the cause of a whopping 123 doping bans in 2010 alone – more than any other WADA-prohibited substance.

“It has caused an awful lot of issues in terms of sports doping control,” ​Brown reflects.

QC support

But programmes like HFL’s Informed-Sport could offer peace of mind to both Olympians and the supplements industry.

“…the Informed-Sport programme comes over as a unique programme in supporting manufacturers in terms of avoiding potential cross-contamination and helping them manage their quality control processes in what they do.”

“…products not only have to go through a very rigorous testing process but the manufacturing site where those products are produced also has to go through a thorough review of quality procedures, cleaning procedures to ensure there is no risk of cross-contamination; a review of all ingredients used in that production site as well to avoid any potential risks…”

Once such a review is completed products are then able to bare the Informed-Sport approved logo, “which is a clear marker to athletes that it has been subject to a testing programme and therefore that can help athletes review their risk.”

While blind testing of products in 2008 revealed contamination rates of about 10%, serious manufacturers had little to fear if willing to regularly review raw material selection and production processes.

A list of products tested by HFL Sport Science’s Informed-Sport programme and found to be contaminant-free can be found here.

WADA’s 2012 prohibited substance list is here.

The 30th​ modern Olympic Games runs between July 17 and August 12 in London.

Related topics: Markets, GMPs, QA & QC, DMAA, Energy

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