Over the last several years, some very gifted endurance athletes have gone from famous to infamous after drug tests indicated they took banned substances, and illegal sports supplements, to enhance their performance. These men and women have been stripped of their Olympic gold medals and other prestigious accomplishments, been the subject of countless headlines and have sullied their reputations forever. By seeking an unfair advantage, these endurance athletes have gained the dreaded asterisk next to their names in publications and destroyed any possibility of lucrative endorsement deals for the rest of their lives. Many have gone from the very pinnacle of their sports to ignominy in a very short period, and it seems that with each doping scandal, the list of sports organizations’ list of banned substances grows longer. Even some drug-free sports supplements are causing problems.
The Sports Supplements Approval Process by the Food and Drug Administration
For a sports supplement to gain approval for sale in the U.S., they must endure the same vetting process as products categorized as “dietary supplements.” This includes drug-free sports supplements. According to the Dietary Supplemental Health and Education Act (DSHEA) signed into law in 1994, a dietary or sports supplement is a product taken orally that contains a “dietary ingredient” intended to supplement the diet. As you might guess, DSHEA’s definition of what constitutes a sports supplement and a dietary ingredient is quite a bit more detailed. However, under DSHEA, the firm that manufactures a sports supplement is wholly responsible for ensuring their product is safe, and any claims made about their products must be substantiated by adequate evidence showing they are not false or misleading. Unless a sports supplement contains a new dietary ingredient not previously vetted by the FDA, FDA approval is not necessary before they are marketed or sold in the U.S.
Which Sports Organizations Test and Approve Sports Supplements
Professional and elite amateur sports organizations have a vested interest in ensuring that their endurance athletes are not taking banned substances. Billions of dollars in advertising, merchandising and endorsements are at stake. Outfits such as the NHL, NFL, NBA, MLB, NCAA, International Olympic Committee (IOC) and countless other professional and amateur organizations require that athletes submit samples for testing at regular intervals. The heavyweight in the banned substances testing business, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), may not be well known to sports fans, but it is the ultimate authority in drug testing in sports.
With offices in Montreal, Canada, and Lausanne, Switzerland the home of the IOC, WADA was created in 1999 “to promote, coordinate and monitor the fight against doping in sport in all its forms.” The problem is that WADA and the drug-testing wings of all major sports organizations are constantly playing catch-up with the chemists who develop new performance-enhancing substances undetected by the testing protocols of the day. This is the primary reason why Tour de France champions, Olympic gold medalists and other endurance athletes are often stripped of their titles years after their victories.
What to Look for in a Sports Supplement
Whether you’re a world-class athlete looking to gain a competitive edge or an amateur athlete seeking the same advantage, an athlete must be certain that the sports supplements included in a training regimen contain no banned substances. This includes drug-free supplements. Endurance athletes who are seeking sports supplements to improve their performance and endurance legally should look for:
ISO/17025 Drug-Free Certification
ISO/17025 is an internationally recognized standard for ensuring the competence and proper calibration of testing laboratories. Laboratories wishing to gain accreditation through their designated accreditation body must meet the rigorous standards of this quality management system.
Sports Supplements made in NSF-certified facilities
The National Safety Foundation (NSF) is the world leader in product certification, education, standards development and risk management for public health and safety. Manufacturing facilities that have earned NSF certification have passed this organization’s stringent standards for cleanliness, manufacturing protocols, regulatory compliance and other standards for public health and safety.
Approval by the WADA ensures that all sports supplement, including drug-free, comply with the World Anti-Doping Code, international standards and meets the WADA’s stringent models of best practices and guidelines.
Approval by major league sports
Major sports leagues such as the NHL, MLB, NBA, NFL, NCAA and others have billions of dollars at stake in ensuring that their endurance athletes compete on a level playing field. To gain approval by major leagues, a sports supplement must first be vetted by independent testing laboratories that they are drug-free sports supplements.
Over the last three decades, the sports supplement industry has gone from a niche business to an industry that generates over $ 20 billion in sales annually. Endurance athletes looking for a safe and legal way to build endurance and supplement their diet nutritionally are well-advised to do their homework to ensure that the sports supplement of their choice is not only drug-free, but also in compliance with the sports organizations guidelines. By doing so, they are making sure that their careers do not fall into the black hole of ignominy too soon.
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