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Monthly Archives: June 2016

Banned Substances in Supplements

Athletes, Are you Doping on Accident with Hidden Banned Substances in Supplements?

Hidden banned substances in supplements can keep athletes out of the Olympic Games: Jessica Hardy and Pavle Jovanovich cases serve as a warning

A number of athletes have tested positive from the hidden presence of banned substances in supplements and have lost the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games. This summer on the road to Rio, Olympic athletes of every stripe would be wise to recall the case of American swimmer Jessica Hardy and others like American bobsledder Pavle Jovanovich who have fallen victim to supplement contamination. Third-party dietary supplement certification, like our BSCG Certified Drug Free® program, is a way for athletes to mitigate the risk of testing positive from banned substances in supplements.

2008 Beijing Olympic Games Swimming - Photo by Oliver Catlin

2008 Beijing Olympic Games Swimming – Photo by Oliver Catlin

Eight years ago, a twenty-one-year-old Hardy was pulled from the 2008 Summer Olympic team heading to Beijing after testing positive for the banned anabolic agent clenbuterol at the Olympic Trials. Instead of getting to swim the 100-meter breaststroke, 50-meter freestyle, and 4×100-meter freestyle relay for which she had qualified, she was smacked with a two-year ban. Not only that, her career was now marred with a doping violation, casting a shadow over all of her athletic achievements.

clenbuterolHardy maintained her innocence, saying she had never before heard of clenbuterol. Some in her entourage, including a coach, pointed to the possibility of banned substances in supplements she had been consuming as a potential culprit for the positive drug test.

Under WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency), USADA (U.S. Anti-Doping Agency) and IOC (International Olympic Committee) rules, however, ignorance about a substance being banned or lack of awareness of how a banned substance entered the body, referred to as ‘inadvertent use,’ are not valid excuses. Athletes are responsible for any banned substance they ingest, regardless of the means, which is known as ‘strict liability.’

At the time, the USOC (United States Olympic Committee) Athlete Ombudsman suggested to Hardy and her team that she consider having her supplements tested by renowned anti-doping guru Dr. Don Catlin, BSCG’s Chief Science Officer. After rigorous testing, Dr. Catlin and his team at the nonprofit/NGO Anti-Doping Research did indeed find trace amounts of clenbuterol in a legally sold supplement Hardy had been taking, Arginine Extreme, a sports-nutrition drink produced by AdvoCare. AdvoCare’s own testing of the product had come up clear of any banned substances.

At an American Arbitration Association panel in 2009, Dr. Catlin testified on Hardy’s behalf. He explained his test results and noted that AdvoCare might not even have been aware of the drug’s presence, as supplements have a supply line of ingredients and these ingredients can be contaminated. Indeed, banned substances often infiltrate products at the raw material stage, and in many circumstances the supplement brand has no knowledge of the issue.

In consideration of Dr. Catlin’s review and the inadvertent use of clenbuterol by Hardy, the panel halved Hardy’s ban to a year. The next year, following an appeal by WADA, the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld the decision. Unfortunately for Ms. Hardy, she had spent much time and effort to reduce her sanction and repair her reputation.

Though Hardy returned to the sport she loves, went on to break world records in the breaststroke, and won relay medals, including gold, at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, there will always be a gap in her career as well as the one Olympic Games she can never get back.

“I hear about (those medals) all the time,” she told the Wall Street Journal in 2012, of the races won by other swimmers at Beijing. “Hardy never used to be an angry person,” the same article stated. “But after the disqualification fiasco, her coach, Dave Salo of the Trojan Swim Club in Los Angeles, says she became prone to ‘act out and storm off’ after occasional bad swims.” Hardy has sought therapy in order to manage the anger and negative thoughts fostered by her unfortunate circumstances.

Hardy is not the only Olympic athlete to have been affected by banned substances in supplements. Just prior to the 2002 Salt Lake Olympic Games American bobsledder Pavle Jovanovich tested positive for the anabolic steroid 19-norandrostenedione. The result had a serious effect on him. “‘It was just a nightmare for me,” he said in an interview later, adding that he felt “completely detached” from family and friends and that he “did battle alcohol.” He blamed the finding on a dietary supplement called Nitro-Tech and ultimately received a settlement from Century Foods. (This short piece, in the San Diego Union-Tribune, summarizes the cases of seven other athletes who also filed suits against supplement companies in relation to positive drug tests.)

These examples serve as a reminder to all athletes and Olympians to be aware of what they are putting into their bodies, at all times. Inadvertent presence of banned substances in supplements can result in serious penalties. Recent studies have revealed the majority of elite athletes consume dietary supplements, making supplement safety and risk management strategies for these athletes vital.

BSCG - Do you really know what is in your supplements?There are simple ways for athletes to mitigate the risks, as we describe on the Supplement Information for Athletes page of our website. One of the most effective methods is to only use supplements that have been certified by a third-party to be free of banned substances, like those that participate in our BSCG Certified Drug Free® supplement certification program (click here for a third-party dietary supplement certification program comparison). After more than 12 years of offering certification, no supplement BSCG has certified has ever led to a positive drug test.

Athletes, don’t let banned substances in supplements keep you out of the Olympics or tar your achievements there. To protect yourselves, your careers and your sports, make sure you consider taking only dietary supplements and natural products that have been certified by a trusted third-party provider to be free of banned substances.

Stay Clean and Win Clean! Support Clean Sport!

The Olympic Charter

The Russian Doping Scandal and the International Olympic Charter Against Doping in Sport

Backstory: The Russian Doping Scandal, the Olympics, and the International Olympic Charter Against Doping in Sport

The Olympic Charter Sadly, an ongoing Russian doping scandal has challenged the central tenets of the International Olympic Charter Against Doping in Sport. The debate rages at the highest levels of sport about whether Russian athletes should be allowed to participate in this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio. This follows an investigation overseen by former WADA president Dick Pound last fall finding Russia’s track and field program was corrupt and riddled with systematic doping. Earlier this year, a large number of Russian athletes tested positive for the banned substance meldonium. And two weeks ago, the head of drug testing for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Professor Grigory Rodchenkov, alleged a scheme in which he, at the behest of the Russian government, oversaw doping of Russian Olympic athletes and result tampering.

Back in 1988, at an international sports anti-doping conference in Ottawa, Canada, 85 delegates of sport, doping control, and government representing 27 nations and the IOC (International Olympic Committee) met to refine and approve the first International Olympic Charter Against Doping in Sport. The guide was meant as an official code of conduct for sporting organizations, countries, and athletes participating in the Olympics.

Don Catlin, M.D.BSCG’s Chief Science Officer, Dr. Don Catlin, a longtime IOC Medical Commission member who founded and directed the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory prior to the Los Angeles 1984 Summer Olympics, worked with a small group of colleagues to first propose the idea of the charter and was a co-writer of the document. The need for a more definitive set of principles and rules had been building since an anti-doping declaration of athletes and coaches at Baden-Baden in 1981 and a call from the IOC’s Athletic Commission in 1985 for stronger doping controls and more severe sanctions.

The original charter, written in both English and French, was approved by the IOC and endorsed unanimously by all represented countries and related organizations. Meant as both a values statement and a practical guide, it contained a preamble outlining principles and seven sections covering such topics as banned drugs, sample testing, and guidelines for out-of-competition and short-notice testing.

The charter describes the importance of anti-doping rules to sport. Doping agents in sport, it states, are “both unhealthy and contrary to the ethics of sport,” so it is necessary to set rules with the intent to “protect the physical and spiritual health of athletes, the values of fair play and of competition, the integrity and unity of sport, and the rights of those who take part in it at whatever level.”

At the end of the charter’s preamble, the countries agree the “following elements are fundamental elements of a common anti-doping policy and strategy, and that they should be applied by governments and sports organizations, acting both individually and in co-operation” as well as “to implement those measures which are within their competence, and to encourage their partners to implement those which fall within their powers.”

The document acknowledged national anti-doping programs could vary from nation to nation depending on the particular government or sport structure, but that certain program elements were considered fundamental to any national anti-doping program. These essentials included a published national anti-doping policy, national coordination, an anti-doping experts advisory group, accredited laboratories, doping control via scientific testing, due-process mechanisms, and education programs.

Annex 6 related to the rights and responsibilities of sports organizations, athletes, and their entourage. The responsibilities of sports organizations were clearly stipulated: “To take all the appropriate steps to organize fair competitions and, in particular of this context, free from doping and to protect athletes and competitors who compete in a fair and equal manner and to exclude those who attempt to benefit from undue use of banned doping classes or methods.”

Since its 2013 report on the ‘Lack of Effectiveness of Testing Programs‘, WADA has been suggesting that a key challenge for the global anti-doping effort is getting stakeholders such as sporting organizations and governments to buy into the ideal of clean sport and has acknowledged that this hasn’t been achieved. The ongoing clamor surrounding the Russian doping scandal illustrates the point well, as it only takes one stakeholder such as Russia to go awry for the whole Olympic system to be thrown out of balance and the credibility of the Games to be undermined.

Whether Russian athletes will be allowed to participate in the upcoming Summer Games remains to be seen. But the letter and spirit of the International Olympic Charter Against Doping in Sport have been clear for 28 years. From the start, the Olympics’ official code of ethics was a useful tool in identifying whether a country was in violation of doping standards, and it remains so today.

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