Tuesday, May 1, 2012
My first week at Drug Free Sport: Dietary Supplements
Well… My first week at Drug Free Sport was anything but typical. I have been in the Anti-Doping industry for three years now, working primarily with collection protocols, field staff training and athlete testing plans. I have developed a solid foundation in the Anti-Doping movement, but have to admit that I feel like a rookie when it comes to the complex world surrounding dietary supplements, drugs, alcohol and other doping methods in sport.
Barely scratching the surface on information related to the topics presented above now seems like an understatement after a week’s worth of work at Drug Free Sport. For instance, who would have thought that someone could make a dietary supplement out of the back of their car and sell it to consumers like you or I? Wait… What? dietary supplements that I’m putting into MY body could potentially be manufactured in the trunk of a car? According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, dietary supplements are regulated under the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA). Under this act, manufacturers of dietary supplements or their ingredients “DO NOT need to register their products with the FDA nor get FDA approval before producing or selling dietary supplements” (FDA, http://www.fda.gov/Food/DietarySupplements/default.htm).
Regardless, these supplement companies or manufactures have to be regulated at some point, right? Well that’s actually correct. These companies must comply with cGMPS, which means “Current Good Manufacturing Practices.” These practices are in place essentially for quality control purposes. They act as a measure to ensure that companies are processing supplements in a consistent manner and meeting standards. Under what the FDA calls the “Final Rule,” supplement manufacturers must adhere to the following conditions (not limited to these conditions):
- The design and construction of physical plants that facilitate maintenance
- Proper manufacturing operations
- Quality control procedures
- Testing final product or incoming and in process materials
- Handling consumer complaints
- Maintaining records
The FDA deploys inspectors to ensure these rules are being followed, but on average, only about 5 inspections take place during a given month. Just go to your local supplement store and see how many different supplements and manufacturing companies there on the shelves; 5 inspections a month doesn’t even make a dent!
Taking this into consideration, how could a supplement that I put into MY body be created in the back of a trunk? Dietary supplements do not have to be approved, show effectiveness or be proven safe before being marketed, as long as they avoid health claims and ingredients that are not GRAS (I also, learned that this means Generally Recognized As Safe).
The point is that dietary supplements are under-regulated and in some cases, we have no idea where these dietary supplements and their ingredients are coming from. I would recommend watching this clip from Dateline’s Chris Hanson on dietary supplements:
It’s only been one week and I could go on and on about some of the things that I’ve learned thus far. If there is one thing to take away from my first week with Drug Free Sport, it’s that no matter how much I’ve learned in my three years of Anti-Doping experience, it’s not enough and every day brings new surprises!
Until next time!