Exploring certification processes and quality control measures in the sports supplement sector.

Todd Runestad, Content Director, NaturalProductsInsider.com

February 26, 2024

3 Min Read

At a Glance

  • Scapegoating supplements: true or false?
  • Third-party certifiers ensure brands are safe.
  • More than merely certifying products are banned substance-free.

For competitive athletes, optimum nutrition and select supplements can mean the difference between a finish on the podium or being just another also-ran. 

Supplements can also be a convenient scapegoat when a competitor gets busted for using banned substances. 

The question is, do sports supplements frequently contain adulterated compounds, or do competitors just use supplements as a convenient excuse for their illicit behavior? 

The U.S. and World Anti-Doping Agencies develop policies and test athletes. Third-party certifiers work with supplement brands to ensure their products are clean. These are the likes of Informed Sport, Informed Choice and NSF Certified for Sport

The problem always starts with suppliers, and then problems continue with supplement brands that don’t have effective quality control (QC) procedures. Supplement companies that get certified go through a meticulous quality review. 

“They look at critical control points and hygiene points in processing,” said Bryan Morin, sports brand manager with NOW Sports, a line of sports-related supplements certified by Informed Sport. “They request a lot of information and do label verification. We did know there are multiple third-party certifiers. Adding a third party would only help us in that area.” 

Related:Here's why creatine sales are surging this past year

TYM Athletic Performance is another supplements brand that went through the certification process, for its protein SKUs. 

“We wanted to communicate that our products were banned-substance-free,” said CEO Rob Wildman. “Our claim for protein is meeting the label claim at the very least. What’s on the label is definitely in there. And on banned substances, what we hope is not in there is certified not in there.” 

Quality and marketing messaging are of course vital metrics for brands considering going through the effort to certify products. 

But really, it’s all about supporting the athlete. 

If an athlete tests positive for a banned substance, the investigation will head back to the supplement company. And certified brands are invaluable in determining the source of the banned substance. 

“When our investigations could not tag the source, the biggest reason was utter chaos at the supplement company,” said Amy Eichner, Ph.D., special advisor on drugs and supplements at the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. 

She said some are good companies but didn’t retain samples, or they used multiple suppliers and don’t know for sure which supplier provided which ingredient in which lot. 

“We advise athletes to only use third-party certified products,” Eichner said. “In the event of a positive test, there’s a much better likelihood that the company with the help of a third-party certifier can identify or disprove to the athlete that your supplement was the culprit.” 

By certifying supplements that are aimed at high-intensity athletes, brands can protect themselves — as well as from athletes who might claim their cheatery is because of a supplement when it’s not. 

To read more about the high-intensity sport world — from new ingredient advances with new market potential to age-old creatine experiencing something of a renaissance — download the free Natural Products Insider digital magazine, "Get Swole!"

About the Author(s)

Todd Runestad

Content Director, NaturalProductsInsider.com, Natural Products Insider

Todd Runestad has been writing on nutrition science news since 1997. He is content director for NaturalProductsInsider.com and Natural Products Insider digital magazines. Other incarnations: supplements editor for NewHope.com, Delicious Living!, and Natural Foods Merchandiser. Former editor-in-chief of Functional Ingredients magazine and still covers raw material innovations and ingredient science.

Connect with me here on LinkedIn.


Todd writes about nutrition science news such as this story on mitochondrial nutrients, innovative ingredients such as this story about 12 trendy new ingredient launches from SupplySide West 2023, and is a judge for the NEXTY awards honoring innovation, integrity and inspiration in natural products including his specialty — dietary supplements. He extensively covered the rise and rise and rise and fall of cannabis hemp CBD. He helps produce in-person events at SupplySide West and SupplySide East trade shows and conferences, including the wildly popular Ingredient Idol game show, as well as Natural Products Expo West and Natural Products Expo East and the NBJ Summit. He was a board member for the Hemp Industries Association.

Education / Past Lives

In previous lives Todd was on the other side of nature from natural products — natural history — as managing editor at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. He's sojourned to Burning Man and Mount Everest. He graduated many moons ago from the State University of New York College at Oneonta.


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