Sports Supplements Under Fire Again

December 6, 2007

3 Min Read
Sports Supplements Under Fire  Again

WASHINGTONInformed-Choice, a supplement testing organization, released a report Dec. 5 on a study showing one-quarter of sports supplements tested positive for contaminants such as steroids and stimulants that have been banned by the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA). USA Today had an early release of the study and gave it front page treatment in the papers Dec. 5 sports section, but industry members were questioning the reports methodology and findings.

The study was commissioned and funded by Informed-Choice, a not-for-profit organization founded in April 2007 described as a partnership between supplement companies and a world-class anti-doping laboratory. The testing was conducted by the organizations partner, HFL Ltd., a Cambridge, England-based testing lab. While USA Today stated HFL was approved by WADA, HFLs accreditation was, in fact, revoked by WADA in mid-September 2007. According to WADA, HFL decided not to pursue its anti-doping line of work, and so would not be analyzing the minimum 1,500 anti-doping samples per year to maintain its accreditation. In a statement from Informed-Choice, it added because WADA now prohibits supplement testing instead of athlete urine testing, HFL chose to instead focus on dietary supplement testing.

For the current report, a total of 58 supplements were purchased and tested between July 2006 and January 2007; however, matrix effects prohibited having conclusive data for four samples via liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (LCMS) and six with gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GCMS). Of the 52 supplements tested via GCMS, 13 contained small amounts of banned steroids; LCMS testing on 54 products revealed six contained banned stimulants. Testosterone boosters were flagged most often, with six of nine such products tested containing androstenedione.

David Hall, chief executive, HFL, noted its sports supplement testing screens products against a defined subset of the WADA banned substance list, noting that this applies to substances in urine rather than supplements and that it is very open in its definition.

The study, which Hall said the firm plans to submit for publication, did not state which supplements were tested, whether they were blinded, where they were purchased, or which products passed or failed. Kelly Hoffman, executive director, Informed-Choice, stated in a release that our intent is not to name and shame supplement companies, because our goal is to work in partnership with the trade to improve products and ensure the safety of athletes and the general public who use supplements. She added the organization does plan to discuss the results directly with the companies whose products it tested.

As far as product selection, the study protocol stated, Products were selected from manufacturers who were not believed to regularly carry out banned substance screening as part of their routine quality control processes. Such screening is offered, for a fee, by Informed-Consent; the organization lists companies that pass the tests on its Web site and allows them to use a quality seal on packaging. Hoffman told INSIDER the organization generally did not choose products for this study that carried claims that they had undergone screening for banned substances.

The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), released a statement from its president and CEO, Steven Mister, urging Informed-Choice to release the names of the brands and products that allegedly failed the tests and those that passed. If consumers safety, health and wellness are the primary concerns for this organization, then this is the right thing to do, he stated. Additionally, we call on Informed-Choice to also release the full study, including the methods used for testing, whether those methods were validated for [those] supplements and the alleged levels of contamination, to determine if the report is accurate. Mister added dietary supplements that contain performance-enhancing steroids or undeclared ingredients are illegal, and FDA has the authority to take such adulterated products off the shelf.

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