Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Why does the NCAA recommend against the use of dietary supplements?

Every time a student-athlete or a trainer asks us a question about a dietary supplement, we attach a standard warning, regardless of whether the listed ingredients are banned or not. Often, we are asked the questions, “why do you give this warning,” “what does it mean”, and “why do you suggest that student-athletes not use dietary supplements?” Below, is the standard warning we give, with an explanation of the statements.

“Products labeled as dietary supplements sold over the counter, in print advertisements and through the internet are under-regulated by the U.S. FDA. Whether a product is classified as a dietary supplement, conventional food, or drug is based on its intended use by the manufacturer.  Please be aware that some companies manufacturer dietary supplement and conventional food products*. Dietary supplements are at risk of contamination or may include ingredients that are banned under your drug testing policy.    Studies have found 12-25% of dietary supplements contain unlisted steroids, stimulants, or trace metals.” Why are dietary supplements at a risk for contamination? Consider these points, (1) Manufacturers do not have to prove the safety and effectiveness of a dietary supplement before it is marketed. (2)Manufacturing facilities are virtually unregulated, they are required to adhere to Current Good manufacturing Practices (CGMPs) , but  unfortunately only an average of 5 inspections take place a month (consider the total number of products sold today…thousands!) (3)  A number of company’s contract manufacture their products and leave the sourcing of ingredients to the contracted company.  So the true identity of the ingredients can be cut or changed without the parent company ever knowing.  This was solidified by the FDA’s Brad Williams participating in an education program at Supplyside West, and he said the number one issue with companies inspected under the supplement GMP program has been failure to adequately test ingredients for identity. 

“We cannot guarantee the safety or purity of any dietary supplement product. Also, the claims made by manufacturers may not be backed up with reliable, scientific research. Student-athletes take any dietary supplement at their own risk.” Without proper testing of the finished product, there is no way to know if the ingredients, and their amounts, listed on labels are correct. You could be getting too much, too little, or none at all of the so-called “active” ingredients. Remember, products do not have to prove their level of safety or effectiveness before they are sold. Often, the “research” a company cites is not reliable, has been done by a party that has interest in the success of the product, or is not scientific in nature. Below are a few tactics used by Supplement Company’s:
·         Misrepresented clinical studies (results out of context, “University tested”, inappropriately referencing research results)
·         False, exaggerated, or purchased endorsements (How much money is the athlete making for saying he takes a product?)
·         Media distortion and false advertising (planted stories online, Company reps posing as local gym guy online in forums, “As seen on Oprah”)
·         Omitting relevant Facts (Product marketed to men but all research done on women)

“The REC does NOT recommend the use of any dietary supplement or manufacturer; please submit all dietary supplement questions to the REC.” While we realize that not all companies are trying to dupe consumers or engaging in dishonest practices, there is no easy way to tell between the “good” and “bad” companies.

“Please be aware that some companies manufacturer dietary supplement and conventional food products.  Products produced in the same manufacturing plant or by the same company could potentially have contamination issues.” Be aware that we have no way to know for sure that a product labeled as a conventional food product but still manufactured by a dietary supplement manufacturer is 100% safe, unfortunately.  If a company is manufacturing meal replacement bars, and shakes, but also manufactures DHEA, you could have a potential problem.

“Remember to report all medications and supplements to your sports medical staff, no matter how insignificant you believe them to be, it could save your life.” Your sports medicine staff needs to know what you are taking, even if it is something as simple as a vitamin. Medications and dietary supplements could pose health risk for some if combined. Those in charge of your health need to know everything you take to give you the best care, especially in case of an emergency.

Again, we realize that there may be benefits to some dietary supplements and that not all manufacturers engage in dubious practices. However, our first commitment is protecting the health and safety of student-athletes. Lastly, we are dedicated to helping protect the integrity of sportsmanship in all sports, and at this time that includes not suggesting dietary supplements.


  1. Sport Enthusiastic
    Thank you for this information. It's very clear. I was taking dietary supplements but now I prefer to invest more money in natural food LOL.

  2. i think dietary supplement still good if they are taken in right amount and also followed by exercise is well. but as some supplement are banned so we should not use then as they can affect our body.OxyELITE Pro Product