Athletes competing at the highest level are bound by strict anti-doping rules that prevent the use of a range of substances either for health, safety or performance reasons. It’s a vital element to the integrity of professional sporting competitions across the globe, overseen by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
To avoid potential risk and health consequences, athletes need to be educated, and mindful when it comes to supplementation; an unintentional breach can signal the end of sporting careers, but also have a devastating impact on overall wellbeing. In other words, the stakes are high when you make a career out of being an athlete.
“During my playing career I had to really rely on organisations such as HASTA and more specifically our internal dietitian for their advice and recommendations on supplement selection,” says NSW Waratah and founder of supplement brand PILLAR Performance, Damien Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick is acutely aware of the certifications and standards required for safe supplementation form both an athlete perspective and from a manufacturing standpoint.
“With the education out there and resources available through HASTA and organisations like Batch Tested, there’s now little leniency towards inadvertent testing in modern sport which is why it’s important for athletes to make the right choices.”
Fitzpatrick, together with Pip Taylor, chair of the AFL Sports Dietitians Association and Director of the Board of Sports Dietitians Australia, explain why testing is necessary, what certifications to look for, and what standards you should hold your supps to.
Who is HASTA?
HASTA (Human And Supplement Testing Australia) is Australia’s globally recognised drug-testing laboratory. They’re the first in Australia to provide testing and certification of sports supplements for elite athletes by an experienced, independent testing team. HASTA’s role as an independent testing facility is about protecting both athletes and manufacturers. They test supplements against more than 200 WADA prohibited substances to give athletes peace of mind in what they’re taking.
I’m not a pro, so why does HASTA certification matter to me?
Testing of supplements across the world has shown a high degree of supplements – up to 20 per cent – with one or more banned substances, none of which were labelled as such, while many others had ingredients listed in incorrect quantities. Most contamination occurs inadvertently during processing, either as a result of cross contamination in factories that manufacture other supplements or through the acquisition of poorly controlled ingredients. Other companies may intentionally add substances like steroids or prohormones without informing consumers, as they know will elicit results and encourage repeat sales. While amateur athletes may not be hit with career-ending or damaging sanctions, they still need to be aware of the very real health risks of banned substances. This is why any supplements used should be treated with a great deal of caution, and benefits must greatly outweigh any associated risks – regardless of your level of athletic endeavour.
There are over 200 substances on the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) banned substances list, and many supplements contain prohibited substances that are not always listed on the ingredient label. According to ASADA (Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority), supplements are one of the leading causes of failed anti-doping tests in Australia, with at least one elite athlete testing positive every month. One of the most common reasons for an athlete to test positive is due to contamination in the factory. Athletes can lower their risk of returning a positive doping sample by using qualified health professional recommended products that are independently tested and verified, at no extra cost to non-batch tested products. But, there’s no need to miss out on the health and performance benefits of good quality supplements.
What can you do to reduce any risk when choosing supplements?
Look for a reputable brand – Australian made is a good start.
Check the product line – companies that also produce products with steroids, prohormones or other banned substances may be at greater risk of cross contamination in product manufacturing.
Choose products that have been independently tested – HASTA provides an added layer of confidence in supplement safety. If you are purchasing supplements you can look for their certification logo and check batch numbers.
“Ultimately, the way we look at it regardless of your athletic status, if something isn’t good enough, safe enough, clean enough for an Olympian then why is it good enough for you,” says Fitzpatrick. Amen.