Athlete-Informed Approach Leads to Lower Positive Results from Supplements


For the first time in more than a decade, not a single athlete has tested positive due to a supplement in Australia, Sport Integrity Australia CEO David Sharpe has said.

This achievement is the result of more than five years of sustained effort between Sport Integrity Australia, the National Sport Integrity Unit, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority and partners including the National Measurement Institute, the Australian Sports Drug Medical Advisory Committee (ASDMAC), Australian Institute of Sport, Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ), Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and national sports organisations.

The result comes on the eve of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Global Education Conference, held in Sydney this week, bringing together 300 international anti-doping education experts to learn how they can continue to help athletes through education. .

Mr Sharpe said supplements had long been a leading cause of anti-doping rule violations in Australia, accounting for a third of positive doping tests between 2016 and 2019.

“Those numbers peaked in 2016-17 when 17 athletes tested positive due to a supplement,” he said. “However, working with these athletes, we know that the vast majority of them had no intention of doping.”

Studies have shown that some supplements are illegal, unsafe and dangerous, not all supplements contain all of the ingredients listed on the bottle, and many supplements are contaminated during the production process. In fact, a survey found that one in five supplements surveyed contained a banned substance.

The response had to be fast, innovative and athlete-informed – and include regulatory and sporting partners, Mr Sharpe said.

Over the five-year period, the response included:

  • Athlete-Informed Changes to Complement Messaging, Focused on Minimizing Harm
  • The creation of the Sport Integrity mobile app which provides a list of “batch tested” low risk supplements
  • Implement additional training in all online courses and over 500 face-to-face sessions, including training for coaches, parents and medical support staff
  • Develop specific resources to guide physicians, dietitians and medical support staff
  • Respond to questions from individual athletes, parents, and support persons about supplement use
  • A regulatory response, in partnership with the TGA and FSANZ
  • Educational videos featuring sanctioned athletes
  • A communications campaign, including over 300+ supplement warnings on social media.

The combination of education, communication, and regulatory response has resulted in a dramatic drop in the number of positive tests attributed to supplements, with just three in 2019-20, one in 2020-21, and none in 2021-22.

“The app was a game-changer for athletes. For the first time, they had a list of low-risk supplements to choose from and a survey to assess the risk of other products. Since its inception, it has been downloaded 65,094 times, with nearly 23,000 complementary checks per year.

“We have also been privileged to have athletes like Cassie Fien and Thomas Carr working with Sport Integrity Australia to share their stories in the hope that it will prevent other athletes from being caught off guard like they were. .”

The appointment of a Medical Advisor within ASADA/Sport Integrity Australia has enabled us to reach doctors and medical support staff with specifically tailored resources and training.

Another significant response came in 2020 when the TGA announced that from November 30, 2020, in order for sports supplements with therapeutic claims containing high risk ingredients to be advertised and supplied, they must be included in the Australian Register. therapeutic products. This meant that certain products would be subject to greater regulation and scrutiny, leading to a safer market for athletes.

Despite the latest figures, Mr Sharpe urged athletes not to become complacent.

“Just because it’s on the shelf doesn’t mean it’s safe,” he said. “Sport Integrity Australia has not and will not approve the supplements because they pose too many risks to an athlete’s health, career and reputation. If you need to take a supplement, please check it.

“All athletes should continue to be vigilant and only use batch-tested supplements if there is a real need.”

The Sport Integrity app is free to download from Google Play or Apple stores.

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