Athletes warned against taking supplements

The South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport is warning athletes against the risks associated with using supplements because many of them contain banned substances.

The sports supplement market is not regulated therefore manufacturers are not bound to list all ingredients on the product label, explains Khalid Galant, CEO of the Institute for Drug-Free Sport.

“It is just not worth athletes taking the risk of facing a ban should they consume so called nutritional supplements that contain banned substances and test positive,” he says.

He cites the example of 24 year old boxing sensation Jared Lovett who was found guilty of doping charges and tested positive for a banned steroid for the second time in October 2010, which he claimed was as a result of taking a supplement. He now  faces a 16 year ban while still carrying out his two year suspension for his first offence.

Supplements lack scientific proof

Galant says that very few of the supplements effects can be backed up scientifically and athletes can achieve their performance levels by obtaining a good diet from a sports nutritionist rather than taking supplements.

Galant says he is very pleased with SA Rugby’s (SARU) recent decision to stop the supply and endorsement of supplement products, following the recent case involving Springbok hooker Chilliboy Ralepelle and wing Bjorn Basson who tested positive for the banned stimulant methylhexaneamine on the team’s UK tour last November after taking a supplement provided by the Springbok management before the Test against Ireland in Dublin.

He says he hopes that other sporting bodies do the same to help minimise the risk of their athletes testing positive.

Doping tests in 2010 increased

Galant says Drug-Free Sport increased the number of doping tests in 2010 and intend upping the number of tests further for 2011. He reports that doping statistics are up by a staggering 60% for the period 1st March 2010 to end of January 2011 with 32 positive results for the period compared to 19 the previous year.

"These 2010 to 2011 figures could still increase as the full year only ends at the end of April 2011 and we have not even completed the full year yet,” he says.

Most alarming is that some athletes that are testing positive are as young as 16 as the result of taking supplements containing banned substances. Galant says that it is important that parents know the risks their teenagers face when taking supplements and that they not get swept up in the untested marketing claims of some of these substances.

“Parents and teenagers must realise that sports skills cannot be purchased in a bottle from your local pharmacy, it takes hard work to be an Olympic athlete or Springbok rugby player,” he adds.  “Doping is a short-cut that will not only get you caught but it is also dangerous to the athlete’s health.”

Athletes that test positive in doping tests may get off with a warning only where there are extenuating circumstances. Galant stresses that a warning still counts as an offence and does not leave you with a clean slate and should that athlete test positive again they could face a long term ban.

The SA anti-doping rules are based on the World Anti-Doping Code, and applies to all sport with the same rules applying across the global sport spectrum. Having said this, Galant says that each case is different. Each anti-doping tribunal hearing is unique irrespective of the substances involved as there are circumstances that the tribunal may hear in mitigation, which will influence the decision on the ruling of a sanction.- (Press release, February 2011)


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