Me? Doping? Of course not! I don’t manipulate doctors for unnecessary prescriptions, buy from shady characters in dark allies, or even buy generic supplements. I only buy brand-name supplements from reputable manufacturers at legitimate retailers.
If these are your thoughts, keep reading . . .
On March 29, 2018, Abby Raymond, a 14-year old weightlifter from Roselle, Illinois, was sanctioned by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) for consuming the illegal performance-enhancing drug, ostarine. Ostarine is an Anabolic Agent that is prohibited under the USADA Protocol for Olympic and Paralympic Movement Testing, the United States Olympic Committee National Anti-Doping Policies, and the International Weightlifting Federation Anti-Doping Rules, all of which have adopted the World Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List.
How did a 14-year old athlete get her hands on ostarine?
On February 15, 2018, Raymond provided USADA with an out-of-competition urine sample, which tested positive for ostarine. In the course of the USADA investigation, Raymond provided information on the supplements she used.
One of the products was tested by a WADA-accredited laboratory in Salt Lake City, Utah. The testing results confirmed the presence of ostarine, although the label did not list ostarine or any known synonym on the Supplement Facts label. The supplement was subsequently placed on USADA’s High Risk List – Supplement 411.
So … please … stop reading this article for a second, go to USADA’s High Risk List – Supplement 411, and confirm that none of the supplements that you are taking are on this list.
As a result of the positive drug test, USADA rendered Raymond ineligible to compete for three months from the date the sample was collected. Raymond was also disqualified from all competitive results obtained on and for three months subsequent to February 15, 2018, including forfeiture of medals won and records set at the American Open I Series (March 1-4, 2018) in Columbus, Ohio.
In determining the period of ineligibility, USADA applied the contaminated product rule set forth in its Code, which provides a substantial reduction in the period of ineligibility if the athlete can establish a reduced degree of fault or negligence for the violation and establish that the positive test resulted from use of the contaminated product.
USADA also considered Raymond’s age. Brad Horn, USADA Communications & Media Relations Director, explained, “In all USADA cases where there is a strong evidence of contamination, the result is a significantly reduced sanction. The typical sanction range for an adult with a contaminated supplement is in the 6-9 month range. This is the first contamination case we have had featuring a minor. Because of the athlete’s age, the slightly lower sanction length is warranted.”
If you think this could not happen to you, consider this–
An examination of the products placed on USADA’s High Risk List in 2018 include the following product claims:
- No: Artificial flavors, colors, fillers, binding agents or synthetic ingredients.
- FOCUS / ENERGY / PUMP / ENDURANCE
- 100% PURE NATURAL GOODNESS GUARANTEED
- Manufactured in an FDA Inspected Facility
- POWERFUL ENERGY, EXPLOSIVE STRENGTH, LASER FOCUS
- 100% NATURAL
- NO ADDED SUGAR, NO FILLERS, NO PRESERVATIVES
- LONG LASTING CLEAN ENERGY
If you spotted a new, all-natural supplement line at your favorite store, with claims that the products would boost your performance, would you buy them?
You would likely research the products and ingredients. If everything seemed to check out, you probably would buy the products. You would have no reason to suspect banned substances in the products, and you certainly wouldn’t hire an outside laboratory to double-check the products’ ingredients against the Supplement Facts labels.
The moral of this story . . .
You can get punished for taking a banned substance even if it was a mistake! Raymond received a three month sanction. However, other athletes have received much longer sanctions for mistaken use of the same drug. For instance, in February 2018, a 33 year-old UFC athlete received a 9-month sanction from USADA for testing positive for ostarine from a contaminated supplement. Will you get a three month sanction for making the same mistake? Don’t count on it. USADA evaluates the circumstances of each situation independently, and you may not be so lucky.
How do I prevent this from happening to me?
Examine the supplements you are taking. Are you very, very, VERY sure they contain no banned substances? You may think you are protected by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a government agency that protects the public health by assuring the safety of our food supply. The FDA, however, regulates dietary supplements under a different set of rules than conventional foods. Per the FDA website:
The [FDA] does not analyze dietary supplements before they are sold to consumers. The manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that the “Supplement Facts” label and ingredient list are accurate, that the dietary ingredients are safe, and that the content matches the amount declared on the label. FDA does not have resources to analyze dietary supplements sent to the agency by consumers who want to know their content. Instead, consumers may contact the manufacturer or a commercial laboratory for an analysis of the content.
If I can’t rely on the FDA to keep me safe from banned substances, who can I trust?
You are liable for what you put in your mouth. Period. Only use stuff you trust. This is easier said than done, though. How are you supposed to only use “stuff you trust?” Are you supposed to set up a laboratory in your basement and test every supplement before using it?! Surely there is an easier way.
There are a few solutions to this problem:
Do not use supplements. Brad Horn, USADA Communications & Media Relations Director, advises:
All athletes have a responsibility to investigate the supplements that they are using. From USADA’s standpoint, any supplement use should be avoided, as athletes assume some amount of risk that a product could contain a prohibited substance due to the unregulated nature of the industry.
Look for the “NSF Certified for Sport“ icon on supplements. Products that display this emblem have undergone a certification program, which verifies that:
- The products do not contain any of 270+ substances banned by major athletic organizations.
- The contents of the supplement match what is printed on the label.
- There are no unsafe levels of contaminants in the tested products.
- The product is manufactured at a facility that complies with the FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practice and is audited twice annually for quality and safety by NSF International.
Use only supplements from trusted manufacturers. This is a viable alternative, but carries some risk. You are relying on personal relationships and trusting that the manufacturer has taken every precaution to ensure no intentional or unintentional contamination of their products.
Finally, remember that supplements are not substitutes for good habits. Show up to practice consistently, train hard, fuel your body with healthy foods, and get adequate rest. These habits will take you further than any chemical substance ever could.