Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Friday, October 28, 2016

Risk Level Rating System: A Deeper Look

Contributed by Anna Filardo, MS
Education Program Manager, Drug Free Sport

Drug Free Sport AXIS™ staff review dietary supplements according to the ingredients listed on the product’s supplement facts panel, marketing claims, and related scam warnings or FDA recalls. After our research and evaluation process, a risk level is assigned as Level 1, 2, or 3. There is no Risk Level 0 because Drug Free Sport does not test dietary supplements.

Due to limitations on regulatory oversight of the dietary supplement industry, there can be no guarantees that a product does not contain banned ingredients without testing each individual item. Unfortunately, supplement companies may intentionally or unintentionally contaminate/adulterate products that end up on the market. For these reasons, the risk level rating system cannot guarantee that a product will not cause a positive drug test. For zero risk, athletes are advised to avoid dietary supplements altogether and focus on food as fuel.

Drug Free Sport AXIS serves as a helpful tool in determining supplement safety for athletes, and provides sports nutrition handouts and recipes as alternatives. For a detailed explanation of the different Risk Levels assigned through the Drug Free Sport AXIS Dietary Supplement Inquiry tool, please keep reading. 

Risk Level I:
  •  The supplement facts panel does not list banned ingredients or ingredients related to a banned drug class. 
  • Product webpage and/or the product label’s marketing is not related to a banned drug class. Example: testosterone is a banned substance; dietary supplements that claim to boost testosterone (and otherwise do not list banned substances) will not be assigned a Risk Level 1.
  • Seen as the “safest” risk level. Remember—there is no guarantee that a dietary supplement company did not contaminate/adulterate the product, which in turn could cause a positive drug test.
  • Specific to Collegiate Sports: A Risk level 1 does not indicate whether or not the product is permissible for direct distribution to athletes. Permissible items are typically determined by compliance officers on campus according to NCAA bylaws.
Risk Level II:
  • Ingredients listed on the label have limited scientific evidence regarding the safety, purity, or effects on the body. The ingredient may not be specifically banned, but has a possibility to be detrimental to the athlete’s health.
  • The marketing for the product makes claims related to a banned drug class. Example: a product that claims to boost testosterone (and otherwise  may not list banned substances) is a Risk Level 2.
  • Specific to organizations that prohibit caffeine: Caffeine or sources of caffeine (green tea, guarana, white tea, etc.) are listed on the label. Caffeine is banned (for specific sport organizations) under the stimulants drug class when urinary concentrations exceed 15 mcg/mL.
    • There is no way for us to know what amount of caffeine will cause a positive drug test due to many factors: metabolic rate, other food/drink consumed, age, gender, weight, height, etc.
  • There are ingredients listed on the label related to a banned drug class. The ingredient is not strictly banned, but is similar to a banned substance. Example: raspberry ketones may share a similar chemical structure to synephrine, a strictly banned stimulant. Therefore, a product listing raspberry ketones (and no other banned substances) would be categorized as a Risk Level 2.
Risk Level III:
  • Ingredients listed are strictly banned. 
  • The product has been cited for contamination/adulteration issues with banned substances, or has been recalled by the FDA.

The Drug Free Sport AXIS risk level rating system is a tool to assist athletes and athletic staff to make informed decisions regarding the use of dietary supplements for sports performance. Ultimately, athletes consume dietary supplements at their own risk.

To have a dietary supplement reviewed by our team, login and submit an inquiry to Drug Free SportAXIS. 

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