Doping In Sport: Are You Unknowingly Consuming Substances That Can Get You Banned?

Worldwide, governments and sporting bodies have expressed their outrage that the use of banned performance-enhancing drugs in sport, both in professional and school sport, has yet again come to the fore. Many South African professionals, amateurs, learners and students have too been tested and found positive for banned stimulants, with authorities claiming, to enhance their performance. This alarming trend is highlighted in recent stats released by the SA Institute for Drug Free Sport revealing 55 doping violations between April 2011 and June 2012.

Whereas some athletes use drugs to seek a competitive advantage, others, including amateurs, may inadvertently consume banned ingredients through sports nutrition products. This is according to Deon Lewis, Managing Director of Cipla Nutrition, the recently launched sports supplement brand which is a brand extension of leading JSE-listed South African pharmaceutical company, Cipla Medpro.

Doping in sport is not a new phenomenon, and has been happening for a long time. Doping unfortunately happens in many sports and the products used by dopers are often not illegal, that is, it is not a criminal offence to take them. However, these substances are banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), as they are seen as an enhancing stimulant, and as such, are banned in professional sport,” says Lewis.

He says that the problem of doping in sport is a complicated one and cannot be solved by merely punishing those who have doped. “This is due to the fact that many athletes are often unaware that they could be taking a banned substance, which could be in their nutritional products. This is what happened to South African rugby players Bjorn Basson and Chiliboy Ralepelle, who both tested positive for the banned stimulant methylhexaneamine while on an international rugby tour in late 2010.” Late last year a promising young rugby player also tested positive for banned substances at the popular school rugby tournament, Craven Week. Last year also saw a few learners facing a two year ban from the sport, following positive doping tests.

Lewis says compounding the problem is the fact that sports nutrition products are generally manufactured in facilities that are not regulated. “This means that products are manufactured with both ‘clean’ substances and WADA-banned substances under one roof. When manufacturing takes place, both the ‘clean’ and WADA-banned substances may be used in sequential batch runs to manufacture different products in the same equipment, but the equipment may not be thoroughly cleaned or sterilized between batches. This means that the opportunity for cross-contamination between non-banned substances and banned substances increases dramatically.

Often the supplier of the raw ingredients to the manufacturer may not be reliable, which means the ingredient could be contaminated at source and thus taint the end product. Some raw materials (ingredients) are so sensitive that they could even get contaminated (with other raw material) in storage just from being on the same shelf. With no regulation or legislation in place in the manufacture of these supplements, there is very little guarantee that many sports nutrition products are not contaminated with WADA-banned substances.”

He explains that consumers cannot therefore be guaranteed of the quality and ingredients that many sports nutrition products claim to possess. However, he says that even though it is an unregulated industry, products that are manufactured in a Medicines Control Council (MCC)-licensed facility that has also been certified for Current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP), could potentially be significantly safer.

The MCC in South Africa governs the medicines landscape in the country to ensure that all medicines available to the public meet strict criteria. When a product is manufactured in a (MCC)-licensed facility, it means that the product manufacturing complies to good quality and efficacy standards.

Better controls in terms of doping tests also need to be implemented locally. Although it is an expensive process to continually test athletes, the Biological Passport screening method, recently implemented in South Africa, could help curb this issue. This method, a DNA fingerprint, essentially monitors selected biological markers in athletes, whose abnormal variations could indicate doping. If inconsistencies are picked up, further tests can then be conducted to confirm whether the athlete is indeed doping. By building up a history of the athletes in a computerised system and testing various samples in relation to new ones, it is possible to effectively tackle the growing issue of doping.”

As a starting point, aspiring athletes should ensure their sports nutrition products are manufactured in a MCC-licensed and cGMP-certified facility, supporting the manufacturing of high quality products in a controlled environment. This could potentially reduce the risk of consuming products contaminated with banned substances.”

He says that the problem is aggravated by an interest in stimulants and anabolic agents at an early age. “Amateur athletes that show potential in turning professional, often start taking the enhancers at an early age. Many athletes feel the competitive pressure at this early stage of their careers, and take products irresponsibly, or without the supervision of their parents.”

Lewis adds that sports nutrition products should also carry an age restriction and those products taken by promising young sports athletes should be supervised by their parents, guardians or coaches, to ensure that they receive optimal and safe sports nutrition.

Cipla Nutrition products are manufactured in a MCC-licensed, cGMP-certified and Halaal approved facility, ensuring the supply of high quality products. For more information about the Cipla Nutrition brand, please visit www.ciplanutrition.co.za.

Twitter @CiplaNutrition for health and nutrition information every day.

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