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Athletes urged to think twice about the unknown dangers of sport supplements

Lachlan Roberts 18 August 2019

Are BCAA pills and protein powder actually good for you? File photo.

Do you know what ingredients are in your sports supplements?

What is polydextrose and sodium selenite? Is inulin actually good for you? Is maltodextrin going to help you lose weight?

While these ingredients can play an important role to improve performance, there are question marks around the risk they pose.

Health experts are calling for more education about the dangers of unknown drugs found in off the shelf sports supplements following the Shayna Jack doping scandal

Ligandrol, an experimental drug still not approved for general use, was found in Jack’s system. The swimmer says she has no idea how the substance came to be in her system and has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing.

While there have been no reported instances of sports supplements being tampered with Ligandrol, there have been cases of dietary supplements being spiked with steroids and other drugs.

According to ASADA, supplement use among Australian adolescent boys appears to have soared, with 45 per cent of 14 to 16-year-old boys in Australia having used supplements or protein powders.

ASADA also said that one in five supplements sold on the shelves in shopping centres actually contain banned substances, some of which aren’t even on the product’s ingredients list.

Last October, ACT Health launched an investigation after they found sports supplements being sold in Canberra actually contained banned and dangerous substances such as selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs), Cardarine, Tadalafil, Oxedrine, Melatonin and Phenibut.

This sports supplement found on the shelf of a supermarket has a long list of ingredients. Photo: Lachlan Roberts

This sports supplement found on the shelf of a supermarket has a long list of ingredients. Photo: Lachlan Roberts.

ASADA has warned that just because you can buy supplements off the shelf in a shopping centre does not make them legitimate.

Those sentiments are echoed by Stirling Sharpe, who is an Associate Lecturer of Sports Management at the University of Canberra. Mr Sharpe said that education is needed to tell kids what supplements are potentially dangerous.

“Plenty of people try to argue that if you are not an elite athlete and not trying to win competitions, that supplements are not so bad for you, but they still come with an inherent risk.

“The primary concern for me is things that can be included in supplements that are not on the ingredients list, so you can’t make an informed decision about it.

“If there are ingredients in your supplements that you are not aware of, how are you supposed to know if they are on ASADA’s or WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency)’s banned list?

“You also don’t know how your body is going to react to them.”

There currently is no mandatory testing regime for the sport supplement products, which in some cases have been spiked with steroids and amphetamines. Some experts have called for a ban on supplement sales to people under the age of 18.

But Mr Sharpe said rather than banning teenagers from taking supplements, more education was needed about the potential dangers.

“In some regards, we say that kids are able to make decisions about themselves at different ages throughout their lives so I am not sure if 18-years-old is the right mark.  I do think that there definitely needs to be more education around supplements.

“It all comes down to ethical decision making and how it fits in with your morals and values. I think we should all be aware that these things are not always labelled correctly.

“When it comes back to Shayna Jack’s case, if the banned substance was in there and not labelled, that should be a concern for all of us, regardless of why we are taking supplements.

“Every supplement consumer should be concerned that unknown substances might be in them.”

Original Article published by Lachlan Roberts on The RiotACT.

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