Home page Journal

Anti-doping guide for athletes on consuming supplements and drugs

By Aynur Nuriev, 6 February 2022

I. Introduction 

It is always a pity for those athletes who, by their own mistake, by the mistake of other persons, or by coincidence, violate the anti-doping rules unintentionally. This concerns violations of the rules under Art. 2.1 of the WADA Code (“Presence of a Prohibited Substance or Its Metabolites or Markers in an Athlete’s Sample”) when bona fide athletes inadvertently consume prohibited substances that are subsequently detected in their body on the results of a doping test. 

In order to reduce the risk of such mistakes, here are some specific recommendations, which, with no exaggeration, can save athletes’ careers. These recommendations are relevant not only to the athletes themselves but also to those around them - coaches, managers, agents, lawyers, doctors, etc. The more people on the athlete’s team understand that the risks of doping can really be reduced, and know exactly how to do so, the better for the athlete, and therefore for the success of the team.

As a starting point, it is necessary to emphasize the importance of interaction between the athlete and their doctor about the first use of certain products or drugs in the framework of sports training, and the use of certain methods (for example, intravenous infusion). It is important that an athlete’s doctor understands pharmacology, the composition of drugs and sports nutrition, understands the effect of certain bodily products on an athlete from the anti-doping regulation point of view (WADA Prohibited List), and the difference between trade names and actual active ingredients, and always pays attention to this.

First off, we are talking here about the doctor’s role. So, in our practice, a doctor once prescribed indapamide (a diuretic) to a Paralympian for treatment of a heart disease, but this is prohibited by WADA and led to subsequent disqualification. The problem could have been avoided, and there were enough options. In particular, the doctor could have replaced indapamide with another medication approved for use, or the athlete could have made a request for a therapeutic use authorization, etc. In that situation, both the doctor and the athlete “failed” because they had not taken additional measures to verify the drug’s status according to the WADA Prohibited List.

Often, an athlete interacts only with a doctor belonging to the team and does not question his/her recommendations. There were cases when even the national team doctors were mistaken about the performance of a particular drug, or did not know it contained a prohibited substance. We do not question the professionalism of the team doctors, but we are convinced that athletes should additionally check the status of any prescribed medication or sports supplement, either on their own or with the help of other consultants. 

It must be noted that athletes should not rely solely on the opinions of coaches or other “advisors” when using some products. It is imperative to double-check everything, preferably with a doctor.

II. Checking the product properly 

Now, let's proceed from the assumption that the athlete has chosen a product that he wants to purchase (either at hisown wish, or on the recommendation of a trainer or doctor). The correct next steps would look like this:

(1) Go to the Global DRO website (https://globaldro.com), select the country where you complete or the country of origin of the drug/supplement. 

check the supplement doping
Here you need to choose the supplement's country of origin / place of purchase

(2) Select necessary options in the fields provided (athlete, sports, the name of the drug or supplement). The Global DRO database contains an extensive amount of information on products and their compositions, so, most times, the search will be successful. 

Search prohibited substances and supplements

 

(3) If the search result is provided, click it (here “Creon”) and read the status of the drug/supplement and its ingredients. 

Get familiar with the status of the supplement or substance. Do not buy/consume if it is prohibited.

(4) Regardless of whether the product was found on the GlobalDRO website or not, check the ingredients of the product with the WADA Prohibited List (in the latest edition). If none of the ingredients was found on the WADA Prohibited List, then the product is approved: if one or more is found, it is obvious that the product is prohibited. 

(5) If it was not possible to understand the WADA Prohibited List, and (or) information about the product was not found on the GlobalDRO website, then send a request to your National Anti-Doping Agency and inquire their advice. 

III. Other recommendations 

A. Buy on a verified platform

If an athlete needs to buy a sports supplement, we recommend they should do so on a verified platform, such as:

  1. Informed Sports (www.informed-sport.com). This merchant (as far as we are aware) sells only products manufactured by US companies that certify/check every batch for prohibited substances.
  2. There is also the equally prestigious Cologne List (www.koelnerliste.com/en/product-database.html) of tested sports supplements used by many European Olympic teams and athletes.

However, it is important to remember that, although only proven sports supplements are presented in both databases, no one gives a 100% guarantee. The purchase of products from the said platforms only significantly reduces the risks of buying contaminated supplements. 

As a result, if an athlete or another person on his behalf is going to purchase this or that product, but it is absent from the lists named above, this is a clear signal to increase the level of attention to the product. 

B. Verify Manufacturers

Investigate the websites of supplement manufacturers for the production process and product quality. For example, are there certificates of the quality and purity of products? Are GMP standards complied with, etc.? 

If there is no free information on the site, contact the manufacturer and find out the necessary information.

Buy supplements only from manufacturers who test the quality of their products (in particular, for prohormone) and can guarantee there was no contact with other substances (including prohormone) during production of the supplements.

In case any doubts appear about the product or its ingredients, contact the team doctors, the national team, other doctors or specialists for recommendations. You should never limit yourself to the opinion of the coach, since he is not a doctor. Even if the coach is well versed in the topic, he is generally not a qualified person to advise on the status of products and their ingredients.

C. Keep the product, packaging, and receipts

If possible, keep the leftover product and its packaging in case of problems and the subsequent need to analyze it. We recommend always keeping a portion of the product being used, and ideally at least one new (sealed/intact) batch of the product. if the athlete has a positive doping test and it is not clear how the prohibited substance got into his body, then one of the options for determining the source will be to analyse any products used. At first, analysis is carried out of an open package; for example, the leftovers of sports supplement capsules. If analysis confirms the presence of a prohibited substance, then the product in a new (sealed) package is analyzed. The laboratory report based on the analysis of the product will serve as evidence.

Conduct laboratory analysis of the product planned for use if the product raises any concerns or there is a desire to play it safe.

D. Keep the records

The athlete should always keep all information pertaining to his or her actions for the sake of product research. For example, if an athlete writes to their doctor and asks for the product status (can it be consumed or not?), then such a letter (by e-mail, messenger, etc.) must be saved. Thus, over a certain period of time, the athlete should have a base of “evidence” that would confirm he made efforts to avoid the use of prohibited substances. These records can be of significant assistance in protecting the rights of athletes within disciplinary procedings. 

In addition, athletes should keep a diary of their meal plans (what they eat, consume, how long, what doses, etc.). In case of a positive doping test, this will help to determine what exactly the athlete was using in the period before the doping test under review.

IV. Conclusion 

Why are we so persistently paying attention to all these points? The answer is actually evident on the surface. As we noted earlier, there is a popular pattern: an athlete has a positive doping test; they do not know the source of the prohibited substance; but what is worse is that they have nothing in their posession to identify the source, or at least to show anti-doping tribunals that they made efforts to avoid doping. 

It should be noted that WADA and all other anti-doping organizations always warn about the risks of using sports nutrition, dietary supplements, and other homeopathic medicines, since there is a possibility of purchasing a contaminated product. Athletes are told about this at seminars. That is why the WADA Code establishes that an athlete cannot be declared completely innocent if a prohibited substance has entered his body by means of a contaminated product. And one more thing: if an athlete is forced to take a prohibited substance or use a proscribed method for health reasons, then they must follow the WADA rules on the application of therapeutic use exemptions (TUE).

In conclusion, we would like to say that, when protecting the athlete’s rights in the framework of doping cases, a sports lawyer’s help is mandatory. However, it is difficult to defend an athlete who pays little attention to food and drug safety precautions and the recommendations outlined above.

About the author: Aynur Nuriev, CEO of Sportlane®, ex-international sports lawyer and business consultant with more than 20+ anti-doping cases behind him in different sports tribunals (CAS, IPC, WDC, IHHF, IWF, FIFA DRC, etc.)