Microsoft word - advice to athletes on use of supplements in sport version –
Advice to athletes on the use of
supplements in sport
POSITION STATEMENT of UK Sport, the British Olympic What is the difference between a medicine and a
Association (BOA), the British Paralympic Association (BPA), supplement?
National Sports Medicine Institute (NSMI), and the Home Country Sports Councils (HCSC)
Athletes should be aware that any product that claims to restore,
correct or modify the body’s physiological functions should be
UK athletes are strongly advised to be extremely cautious about licensed as a medicine, according to current legislation. Licensed
medicines can be identified by looking for a product licence
the use of any supplements. No guarantee can be given that any number
on the label, which will look like this: PL0242/0028
particular supplement, including vitamins and minerals, ergogenic (numbers wil change with each product). Supplements will not
aids, and herbal remedies, is free from prohibited substances as contain a product license (PL) number as they are not licensed
these products are not licensed and are not subject to the same medicines.
strict manufacturing and labelling requirements as licensed
Additional risks to athletes and sporting bodies
Anti-doping rules are based on the principal of strict liability
In the absence of an internationally approved quality assurance and therefore, supplements are taken at an athlete’s risk and
standard for supplement manufacturing and label ing, athletes and personal responsibility
sporting bodies should be cautious of the commercial incentives
associate with supplement manufacturers, for example,
Always consult a qualified medical practitioner, accredited sports sponsorship and promotion deals.
dietitian and/or a registered nutritionist before taking supplements,
and if a vitamin or mineral supplement is recommended, Athletes or sporting bodies who accept sponsorship from
pharmaceutical-grade products may
reduce the risk of using a supplement manufacturers do so at their own risk
contaminated or poorly labelled product.
Without an approved quality standard, a guarantee cannot be
given about the reliability of the manufacturing or label ing
process, despite claims made by some manufacturers.
Advertising that claims to improve muscle growth and assist
weight loss are also cause for concern. The Advertising
Standards Authority (ASA) Director General reinforced this
40 Bernard Street, London WC1N 1ST
Drug Information Line
0800 528 0004 Confidential Fax
020 7211 5248
Drug Information Email [email protected] Website
concern in saying: “Many of these advertisements are making ambitious claims about products, but when challenged to produce satisfactory evidence to back up these claims, advertisers are unable to. We are concerned not only that consumers may be losing money, but also that these advertisements can be irresponsible in their approach to weight loss and dieting.”
- although excess vitamin C is usual y excreted in
the urine, mega doses can result in diarrhoea, nausea and stomach cramps
Vitamin D -
large doses can result in side effects such as
weakness, thirst, increased urination, gastrointestinal upsets
Here are answers to some questions that are commonly
and depression. Prolonged mega doses can result in
asked about nutritional supplements.
calcium deposits in soft tissue, blood vessel walls and
Vitamin E -
large doses can result in nausea, abdominal
What are sporting organisations in the UK doing about the
problem of contaminated and poorly labelled supplements?
Is it safe to take an ergogenic aid to enhance performance?
UK Sport, the British Olympic Association, the British Paralympic Association, the National Sports Medicine Institute and the Home Country Sports Councils are Ergogenic aids are agents which are used in an committed to supporting athletes in the UK who are attempt to improve performance. Many ergogenic committed to competing and winning fairly, and whilst substances are banned in sport, for example, a solution to this problem with contaminated and ephedrine, which could result in a positive drugs test poorly labelled supplements may not be possible, we if the concentration in the urine is greater than wil continue working towards achieving a better 10mcg/ml. One ergogenic aid that is widely used and situation for UK athletes. Our position statement is is not on the prohibited list is creatine monohydrate. intended to protect the integrity and reputation of UK Many ergogenic aids, including creatine products athletes by warning them of the risk that supplements have been found to contain prohibited substances may contain prohibited substances that are not listed that were not identified on the label. Do herbal on the label.
How do I know if I need to take vitamin and mineral
Herbal remedies, such as ginseng, guarana and echinacea have supplementation for my health?
also been found to contain prohibited stimulants or other substances which may not be listed on the label. These products
are difficult to quality assure and therefore a guarantee cannot be
For athletes consuming a normal, varied and given as to their safety or legality. Ginseng
has been used for
balanced diet, that meets their energy requirements, centuries in Asia. There are over 20 plants that are called
there is no evidence that vitamin and mineral ginseng, each having varying effects. Some forms of ginseng
supplementation is necessary to enhance health or have a stimulant like ef ect in that they reduce fatigue. Ginseng is
performance. In fact, excessive ingestion of vitamins also claimed to be beneficial for improving concentration and
and minerals can be dangerous to health. There are immune function as well as anti-ageing. There does not appear
some practical situations in which qualified medical to be any conclusive scientific evidence supporting these claims
practitioners, accredited sports dieticians and or ginseng’s effect on sporting performance. Ma Huang
registered nutritionists, may recommend specific (Chinese Ephedra)
is a plant that contains the prohibited
vitamins or minerals for certain individuals (e.g. if iron substance ephedrine taken from ephedra.
stores are low). However, these should be taken with
qualified expert advice and only used as directed or The manufacturer has given you a guarantee that their
prescribed. Caution is needed because evidence has product is ‘IOC PERMITTED’. Is it true that supplements have
shown that some multi-vitamin, mineral and nutritional
been endorsed by the International Olympic Committee
supplements may contain prohibited substances that (IOC)?
are not recorded on the label. Taking additional
vitamins or minerals supplementation above the Although some substances found in supplements are not on the
recommended dietary allowance is not likely to list of prohibited substances and methods, this assessment can
improve performance and for some substances could only be made of the substances listed on the label of the product.
actually have serious side effects such as:
In the absence of a quality assured standard in manufacturing
Niacin (vitamin B3)
- large doses can cause itching, and label ing, the substances listed on the label may not be a true
indication of what is actually in the product. Some supplement
Vitamin A -
large doses over a prolonged period of time can
companies target sportspeople by using the words ‘IOC
cause headache, nausea, diarrhoea, dry and itchy skin, hair PERMITTED’ to build confidence in the product. The IOC does
loss, loss of appetite and kidney and liver damage.
not endorse any supplements and advise caution to athletes wanting to use them. Do not believe everything you read on the label! Manufacturers are often aware of the competitiveness of
sport and the continual striving to achieve. Many market their
products by relying on personal endorsements by wel -known
sportspeople or anecdotal evidence, neither of which may be
based on scientific studies or reliable evidence.
Can I get my supplements tested to make sure they are safe
Getting your supplements tested by a reliable laboratory is
extremely expensive and does not provide a guarantee to the
safety or legality of your supplements. It is not just a case of
testing one bottle of supplements and knowing that your
supplement is safe. You would need to test every single batch of
supplements you take to ensure that each batch had not been
contaminated or poorly label ed. This is not a guaranteed method
of identifying safe products. Where can I find a registered nutritionist or accredited sports
British Dietetic Association
- telephone 0121 200 8080 or visit
their website at www.bda.uk.com Dietitians in Sport & Exercise Nutrition
– mail to DISEN, PO BOX
22360 London W13 9FL Nutrition Society
– telephone 0207 602
Drug-Free Sport Directorate
40 Bernard Street
London WC1N 1ST
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