Supplement Update from SportNutrix

Start into the New Season - Supplements and Sports Foods

By Judith Haudum

Every new season starts with a new release of a prohibited list by the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA). Not only coaches, team doctors and dietician should have a look at it, athletes should read through it as well. It is an important part of professional sport. It is critical to consult an expert who is familiar with the current rules before taking any substance.

Nutrition is definitely a field that is strongly linked to supplements and the WADA prohibited list. Ergogenic aids and sport foods are part of nutrition support, hence dietitians need to be familiar with the latest release of the prohibited list and rules within cycling (i.e. UCI).

Considering the start of a new season, a new team or a new nutrition sponsor require some basic work before a race year. Athletes need to be familiar with the products, should have a look at what the sponsor offers or what the team has available for their athletes. Read the labels, look what is in every (!) product. Ask yourself what you need, what the ingredients are and if you need them. If you’re not sure, reach out to an expert and go with him/her over it. It is a key part of your daily performance and season, so make sure that is clear in time for the season.

The whole area of dietary supplements is a very complex, difficult and challenging one. The risk of a positive doping test is often underestimated when it comes to the use of a supplement. Especially in recent years we’ve seen a clear trend towards a food first approach. First improve and adjust your diet to meet your needs, and in case of some dietary constraints or shortage of food consider using a supplement. It is an approach that I use with my athletes, too, and it works perfectly. Food always comes first. But I am also aware of the fact that there are some supplements that have a benefit to performance. In these cases it is always a question on risk versus benefit. WADA did a great interview with Ron Maughan, an expert in the field of dietary supplements, on exactly this issue (see link below).

The problem with dietary supplements is not only the regulation, it is also the confusion and myths that are out there. The confusion starts already with the label. Many have never really been taught how to read a label and what to look for on a label. There is a lot of information on a label and sometimes it is confusing. A very tricky trend is the use of natural and organic supplements. However, while it is great to use organic and natural foods, a 100% organic supplement can still cause a positive doping test. "Organic" certificates have nothing to do with the WADA code or do not proof a high quality of a supplement. Some plants and herbs contain substances that are on the prohibited list, i.e. organic doesn’t mean clean and tested.

Many countries offer an app for phones where athletes can inform themselves about dietary supplements. Some versions also include a tool which allows them to enter a substance or product name and retrieve information on that particular product. It is a great thing to have and I recommend it to every athlete. Only be careful when you go to a different country. Ingredients of a product differ among countries and a medicine you take at home can have a different ingredients in another country. My advice if you are traveling to other countries is to download the app of the corresponding country and check before being a product to make sure you are doing nothing wrong.

For ergogenic aids and sports foods there are also some great websites that help to identify products but always be aware that even these products are not 100% safe. There is always a risk that remains (small concentration of a banned substance).

Office of dietary supplements:

Informed Sports:

Kölner Liste:


Furthermore, the IOC, very recently, released a position stand on dietary supplements and the high performance athlete that is a good guide for athletes and support staff.

Finally, an important note on tramadol: the case of tramadol is one that has been in the news for a while. Tramadol is a painkiller and has been used in many sports over the past years. As of March 1 2019 (yes, this is the date!!) we will see the effective ban of in-competition use of Tramadol. The ban is valid among all disciplines. The test will be via a blood sample (fingertip). Just as with every other doping test, a missed or avoided test will be considered a positive test. The penalties according to the UCI are:

Rider penalties

A first offence committed by a rider will be penalised with disqualification from the event. In addition, a fine of CHF5,000 will be imposed if the rider is a member of a UCI-registered team. In all other cases, the fine will be CHF1,000.
A second offence will result in disqualification from the event and a five-month suspension. If a further offence is committed, a nine-month suspension will be imposed.

Team penalties

If two riders belonging to the same UCI-registered team commit an offence within a period of 12 months, the team will be fined CHF10,000. If a further offence is committed within the same 12-month period, the team will be suspended for a period of 1 to 12 months, to be determined by the UCI Disciplinary Commission.

The season is still young but it is time to think about the basics regarding supplements if you haven’t done so already. If you are not sure, don’t lose time. Do it now and make sure you get your supplements sorted. And don’t forget: food comes first.

Link to WADA talks with Ron Maughan on supplements

Link IOC consensus statement dietary supplements and the high performance athlete

If you would like more information, or help with your nutritional needs please contact us, or Judith Haudum directly if you are already a member.

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