IOC Finds Many Supplements Contain Unlisted Banned Substances

April 4, 2002

2 Min Read
IOC Finds Many Supplements Contain Unlisted Banned Substances

BRUSSELS--Even though the 2002 Winter Olympics are over, the problems facing world-class athletes are not. Today, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) reported that in a test of approximately 600 nutritional supplements, 15 percent contained banned substances that were not listed on the product labels. As a result, the IOC reiterated a warning to athletes against using these substances and strengthened its call for industry and government quality control measures.

Of 634 non-hormonal supplements manufactured in 13 countries, 15 percent (94 products) contained unlisted substances that would have caused an athlete to test positive during a doping test. Of these products, 23 contained precursors of both testosterone and nandrolone, 64 contained precursors of testosterone alone and seven had nandrolone precursors. Another 10 percent (66 products) returned borderline results for various unlabeled substances.

Based on the sheer number of "positive" products, the United States had the most, with 45 out of 240 products (19 percent). Germany had the second highest number of failed products--15 out of 129 (11.6 percent). The Netherlands had the highest percentage of "positive" products with 26 percent (8 out of 31 products).

For Tod Cooperman, M.D., president of the United States-based testing firm,, these results were not surprising considering what he is seeing in's Athletic Banned Substances Screening Program. "However, it was very interesting to see that products from other countries also fared poorly. Most surprising was Germany's fail rate of 11.6 percent, since the [German government] regulates supplements like drugs," he told HSR.

According to a statement, the IOC hopes the results of this study will demonstrate the need for better quality control procedures--such as pharmaceutical-grade manufacturing--for these supplements.'s vice president for research, William Obermeyer, Ph.D., pointed out that the U.S. government's pending Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) may decrease, but not completely eliminate, quality issues for these products. "First, it will still be up to the manufacturers to employ GMPs properly and, as it now stands, the GMPs may not include testing of finished products," he said. "Second, the level of a banned substance needed to cause disqualification of an athlete could still be permissible under the GMPs as these levels are not necessarily `unsafe.' Even drug GMPs allow for levels as much as 100 times that which could lead to a positive screen for an athlete."

The IOC also plans to recommend to National Olympic Committees, International Federations and Organizing Committees to exercise caution when forming relationships with supplement companies that may have products of questionable quality. The release can be found at

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