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Athletes Warned By IOC Panel Over Supplement Use

A panel of medical and scientific experts convened by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has concluded that the use of supplements can benefit elite athletes but it does not compensate for an inadequate diet.

It was remarked by the panel that the use of supplements does not compensate for poor food choices and an inadequate diet. The panel also commented that supplementation with essential nutrients "may be beneficial" if the deficiency of a specific nutrient is medically diagnosed and a food-based solution cannot be easily implemented.

The panel ruled that a "few" supplements, out of the "many thousands" of different products on the market, may provide performance or health-related benefits for some athletes in some types of sports when optimum training, nutrition, and recovery are already achieved. It was also agreed that quality assurance in supplement manufacture, storage and distribution is sometimes not strictly enforced and this could lead to products that are contaminated or of poor quality.

A warning was issued by the IOC-commissioned panel that undeclared contaminants present in some supplements may cause an athlete to fail a doping test. In recent years, there have many instances where positive tests have been blamed by athletes on substances they had supposedly inadvertently consumed via a supplement.

Few months back, Jamaican sprinter Nesta Carter blamed supplements on a failure for banned stimulant Methylhexaneamine following re-analysis of frozen samples taken at the Beijing 2008 Olympics. The Jamaican team also including Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell, and Michael Frater were consequently stripped of the 4x100 meters relay gold they had won initially at the Beijing Olympics. In 2013, Powell blamed nutritional supplements subscribed by a physiotherapist when he failed for stimulant Oxilofrine. Jamaican sprinter Sherone Simpson also tested positive for the same drug. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) reduce their bans to three months and then remarked they put forward that the offence committed was minor because it was caused by contamination of the food supplement Epiphany D1 by the banned substance Oxilofrine and requested that the suspensions be reduced to three months.

It follows a three-day meeting attended by figures including IOC vice-president and Medical and Scientific Commission chair Ugur Erdener and other members and IOC medical and scientific director Richard Budgett.

The IOC experts concluded that the protection of athletes' health and an awareness of the potential for harm must be paramount, and expert professional advice should be sought before embarking on supplement use. In December, a "consensus statement" is now due to be published online and in the British Journal of Sports Medicine the following month.

In a statement, the panel said the IOC Medical and Scientific Commission has recognized the important role that sound nutrition practices play in protecting good health and promoting the optimum performance of athletes. It also commented that it as part of its commitment to supporting the health and performance of athletes convened a meeting of experts in the field of dietary supplements to assess the evidence relating to the place of dietary supplements in the preparations of elite athletes. The statement further reads that particular focus was placed on their effects on athletes’ health and performances, and the risk of contamination with substances that may be harmful to health or that may trigger an adverse analytical finding, leading to an anti-doping rule violation.

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Albert Wolfgang
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