Most natural bodybuilders have a passion for nutritional supplements, a cornerstone of their regimen for physical perfection. That passion often extends to the adoration of whichever supplement companies come calling with so-called “sponsorships” of in-kind services (rarely cash) – or whatever brand is endorsed by their trainers or close personal friends without any verification of whether or not the supplements contain any substances banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
Why is that important?
Most of the major natural bodybuilding federations consider WADA as the “gold standard” for drug testing integrity and use the objective WADA banned substance list as basis for their own drug testing. Thousands of natural athletes are subject to WADA guidelines through these sanctioning federations. (Some other federations have chosen to establish their own biased criterion of what is “natural” and what is not by excluding certain WADA-banned substances from their separate banned substance list which list is not generally recognized by the international sporting community).
Many of natural athletes are sponsored by supplement companies that may – or may not – subscribe to the WADA banned substance list under the pretense that their products are “legal.” Unfortunately, many athletes naively believe that “legal” is compatible with WADA guidelines. It is not.
The WADA banned substance list is comprised of specific performance-enhancing drugs including substances prohibited at all times, substances prohibited in competition, and substances prohibited in certain sports. While some of these substances might be perfectly legal, they are NOT permitted in natural bodybuilding competition. Period. The fact is that 25% of all supplements contain banned anabolic steroids according to recent data released by the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF).
If natural bodybuilders – sponsored or otherwise – use supplements containing substances banned by WADA, they could potentially risk their eligibility to compete based on the efficacy of their federation’s testing. Worse, they could be exposed as cheaters regardless of whether or not they used the banned substances intentionally and their reputation could be tarnished forever.
Some of these same supplement companies could also be including contaminants and other ingredients in their products that might be technically legal and/or not part of the WADA banned substance list but could still be harmful to one’s health. Pharmaceutical products are subject to FDA approval, but dietary products are not.
To protect themselves from the potential risk of tainted supplements, athletes might ask for written confirmation from their supplement company attesting that their products are free of WADA banned substances and/or possible contaminants not disclosed on the label. Many well-known athletes have tested positive for banned substances from using tainted supplements. Their only recourse has been to sue the supplement company for redemption. Written confirmation from the company’s owner or top honcho might give athletes another level of protection in the event of a lawsuit by personalizing the offense and not allowing owners/officers to hide behind the corporate shield if their supposedly “clean” products cause athletes to fail a drug test. If the supplement company and its top echelon refuse to provide written confirmation, it only begs the question, “Why not?” If such a confirmation is not immediately forthcoming, athletes might want to start looking for another sponsor or choice of supplements.
Another possible solution is to use only supplements certified by NSF International, the public health and safety organization founded “to protect and improve global human health.” Founded in 1944, the NSF established the NSF Certified for Sport®Program to reduce the risk of supplements containing banned substances through stringent independent certification process guidelines including protection against adulteration of products, verification of label claims against product contents, and identification of athletic banned substances in the finished product or ingredients.
The NSF maintains the only accredited American National Standard for the certification of dietary supplements and is currently recognized by NFL, NFLPA, MLB, MLBPA, PGA, LPGA, NHL, CPSDA, Taylor Hooton Foundation (and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports (CCES). For a list of supplements currently certified by NSF, readers can click HERE .
Fortunately there are many legitimate and trustworthy supplement companies that genuinely embrace natural bodybuilding and strive to produce quality products that are free from substances banned by WADA and free of dangerous contaminants. However, there are also many such companies where profit motive is more important than ethics.
Ultimately it is the sole responsibility of individual athletes to take whatever measures are necessary to protect their natural status. If they test positive for a banned substance at a contest, the sanctioning federation won’t care how it happened. Excuses won’t fly.