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.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Where do you get your information on dietary/nutritional supplements?

We know that at least 69% of student-athletes purchase their supplements at their local retail store (2009 NCAA Study).

I can’t tell you how many calls we get that include the following statements, “The guy at the nutrition store told me I should take Product X. He said it would be fine to take and doesn’t have anything banned in it. He said it is safe.” We’ve discovered a trend; often times the sales clerk is wrong in his/her assessment of the product and really has no clue what impact the product will have on athletes health or eligibility. So where do you get your information on dietary/nutritional supplements? Do you turn to the person at the “nutrition” store or perhaps through a web search? Do you ask friends, coaches, or family members? Why do you ask these individuals for help?

Often, when we try to educate about a certain supplement and warn student-athletes about potential complications of use, we are asked, “how do you know?” We have had individuals demand proof that dietary supplements can be contaminated, or why a certain substance should or should not be banned. We are more than happy to provide proof and offer solutions that will help the athlete stay healthy, both on and off the field, but our question is, why do you not demand the same proof from those who suggest products to you? Do you ask the person at the nutrition store how they know the product will help you gain muscle? What is their expertise? Do you demand scientific evidence?

When you search online, do you research the manufacturer’s claims? Do you ask your friend how they know a product will work for you? Do you request their qualifications?

We are also aware of a lot of direct marketing. Companies selling Deer Antler Velvet, male enhancement products, etc., are sending emails directly to student-athletes. They may be using your name in the subject line and might even know your sport. In copies we have seen, they are telling you how great their product is, that it is safe, AND that it is NCAA “legal” or “approved”. This type of marketing personalizes the message to you. This helps gain your trust. Ask yourself, who are they? How did they get my name and email? What type of information are they giving me? What do they stand to gain? Is it worth my health and/or scholarship/career?

Our point is this: Don’t believe something just because someone tells you that it is true. The fact is, most dietary supplements are not backed by reliable, scientific evidence. They could be a waste of money, they could be harmless but ineffective, or they could be dangerous. With most products, there just isn’t enough information to make the claims that are made at “nutrition” stores, in direct marketing, or on the web.


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Tainted Body Building Products: Includes warning letters, Enforcement, and Recalls

FDA reminder: Remember, FDA cannot test all products on the market that contain potentially harmful hidden ingredients. Enforcement actions and consumer advisories for tainted products only cover a small fraction of the tainted over-the-counter products on the market.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Dietary Supplement Q & A: What is considered a supplement?

If someone asked you, “Do you take supplements?” what would you say? What do you think of when you hear the term supplement? Do you think of those containers you see at the gym that are called things like Serious Mass, NO-Xplode, and Creatine? What about your multivitamin? The GU gel you take during training runs? How about the 5 hour energy shots you take before a game?

The answer to this question isn’t an easy one. After reading research on supplement usage rates, I was finding a wide range of answers and a wide range of products mentioned. A lack of understanding of the term “supplement” makes research on usage rates difficult. It is also challenging as we try to educate student-athletes on risks of supplement use, to both their eligibility and their health. To help you navigate through the murkiness, here are some definitions.

Dietary Supplement - As defined by the FDA , a dietary supplement is a product taken by mouth that contains a "dietary ingredient" intended to supplement the diet. The "dietary ingredients" in these products may include: vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, and substances such as enzymes, organ tissues, glandulars, and metabolites. Dietary supplements can also be extracts or concentrates, and may be found in many forms such as tablets, capsules, softgels, gelcaps, liquids, or powders. They can also be in other forms, such as a bar, but if they are, information on their label must not represent the product as a conventional food or a sole item of a meal or diet.

Nutritional Supplement – Any product intended to supplement the food diet. This can include multivitamins, protein powders, sports drinks and gels, etc. Anything that is not a traditional food can fall into the nutritional supplement category.