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  • Are Contaminated Supplements Really Causing AAFs?
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    Are Contaminated Supplements Really Causing AAFs?

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    This is the second in a series of three articles designed to answer what I felt were the primary questions coming out of the reader forum after Ironman announced the sanctions of Beth Gerdes and Lauren Barnett. This article attempts to answer questions related to likelihood of supplement contamination causing an AAF Adverse Analytical Finding as well as what simple steps athletes can do to protect themselves.

    How likely is contamination? Many - but not all - of the problems in the supplement industry derive from the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act DSHEA which categorized supplements as foods rather than as pharmaceuticals. And the industry needs to tackle these problems head on, especially if they want to continue to attract savvy consumers who are also justifiably concerned about needing to comply with the WADA Code. While taken as a group, these problems paint a picture of an industry run amok, it's unclear that well-intentioned athletes consuming seemingly innocuous supplements is a significant - or even regular - cause of AAFs.

    There are four very distinct problems the supplement industry faces: Products that do not actually contain what they say they do. Whether or not gingko helps memory doesn't matter if there's no actual gingko in your gingko supplement. Products that make claims with no basis in scientific fact. The typical note on the HRL reads either, "product label lists a prohibited substance" 87 substances , or "product claims to contain a prohibited substance" 62 substances.

    Of the products on the list N. The FDA considers this both fraud and a violation of drug laws. This isn't because regulations don't exist; this is because people are willing to lie and cheat and because regulation and oversight is often less well enforced than it should be. To prevent inadvertent doping cases athletes should avoid the consumption of nutritional supplements, which are advertised with extreme claims of muscle growth, increase of strength and fat loss. And if the FDA catches them, they do crack down.

    Overwhelmingly, supplements are much more likely to be spiked than contaminated. And the supplements that are spiked are exactly the ones you'd expect.

    If the bottle has a picture of a guy with veins exploding out of his forehead as he craps a lightning bolt, don't take it.

    Supplements that are contaminated. This is the issue that everyone is worried about, but there's not a lot credible evidence that this accounts for any significant quantity of AAFs. The issue is not simply contamination, it's contamination in sufficient quantity to trigger an AAF.

    As I covered in the lab testing article, the fundamentals of the science of laboratory analysis apply here. Looking again at the HRL, there are only 37 supplements of that contain something banned that isn't on the label. But overwhelmingly, most of these products have all kinds of other red flags, such as Ar1macare Pro, which Olympus Labs states, "contains the ideal doses of these compounds to aid your metamorphosis into a Demigod.

    I don't intend this as a defense of the supplement industry; it's a very direct result of their lobbying efforts that you can buy these things cheaply and easily over the internet. This is a defense of both common sense and statistics. While some manufacturers abuse the laxity of regulation, some manufacturers view purity as a competitive advantage and have internal Quality Assurance QA and Quality Control QC processes that exceed what is required by law.

    There are plenty of great companies who want athletes to pass their drug tests. And, of course, most companies simply want to make sure their products don't cause an AAF, exposing them to a lawsuit, and don't end up on the HRL, putting them in the crosshairs of the FDA. Just because supplements are not regulated like pharmaceuticals by law, companies can choose to follow the published standards Satisfying FDA 21 CFR voluntarily.

    And if they do, you can be sure they'll tell you about it. So do your research. What responsibility does a race organizer have regarding the products they provide on-course? This isn't as clear as it should be, and there is now an increased awareness of the importance of this issue. While I think we can improve the focus on quality and integrity of all nutritional products in our sport, I don't want to engage in fear-mongering here. Recent revisions to the WADA Code make it clear that "Strict Liability" - while a noble goal - needs to have some built in flexibility.

    Here's the complete statement on the changes. The first thing they address: The Code amendments provide for longer periods of Ineligibility for real cheats, and more flexibility in sanctioning in other specific circumstances" They also speak exactly to the topic of what triathlon calls "age-group" athletes, but do so more broadly: Some countries choose to test lower-level Athletes and even fitness club participants.

    The definition of Athlete has been clarified to provide that where a National Anti-Doping Organization elects to test individuals who are neither national- nor international-level Athletes, not all of the Code requirements are applicable. On course nutrition is no exception. The number of companies that have signed on with various third party certification systems is growing exponentially. As these things gain traction, I expect that athletes will just start to demand this, and savvy race organizers will meet that demand.

    Understanding Third-Party Certification There are numerous third-party certifications that aim to minimize the risks of a contaminated supplement causing an AAF. In both cases, they provide legal guarantees, with a caveat - they only test for things that there are tests for. A designer steroid for which there is not yet a test is banned by WADA, but there's no verification system to confirm its absence because you can't test for what you don't know to look for.

    Do I consider this a risk? Beyond the fact that it's extremely unlikely that designer drugs are just floating around in reputable manufacturing facilities, there are methods built into cGMP current Good Manufacturing Practice standards as well as additional steps that manufacturers can take that can tackle identification of unknown substances through other means e. As we covered in the lab piece, we're talking about what is reasonable.

    Further, as I mentioned above, WADA has built greater discretion into The Code for athletes who demonstrate that they clearly are trying to do the right thing in terms of researching what they take. What steps should a clean athlete take to protect themselves? The first line of defense is research. Research and vet the products that you're taking.

    Ask about third party certification. Still, one of the most repeated questions on our forum was asked by both skeptics and nervous athletes alike. Both wanted to know how it's determined that a contaminated supplement caused an AAF. A product that contains a Prohibited Substance that is not disclosed on the product label or in information available in a reasonable Internet search. After digging through some of the published arbitration briefings , the steps are: Howard was kind enough to confirm this accounting of the process for us.

    Drug testing you is expensive as well. This type of precision analysis just costs a lot. You may or may not receive some support for the cost of testing. Don't count on it. If you don't have any more of the supplement, at least keep the container. You might consider saving a couple pills or scoops of powder or whatever from every container as well. The high cost of testing also undermines the idea of an athlete who "tests a whole bunch of supplements in advance to find one contaminated with X that they can use an excuse in the event that they are caught.

    Further, given that the presence of illicit substances constitutes a federal crime, it seems highly unlikely that you could get a lab to tell you that they found banned substances and not have them also alert both the FDA and WADA. Manufacturers must print the lot number on every package.

    If you can't find a bottle from the same lot, you can try a different lot, but unless a product was intentionally spiked and even then , this may prove futile. For those skeptics who worry that an athlete could easily spike a container of an uncontaminated supplement and lay the blame there, it's not that simple. You need to show contamination on a sealed container. Further, the level of contamination needs to be consistent with the amount found in your system.

    Both in terms of timing and amount. The math needs to add up. It's not just about showing that a given supplement was contaminated. It has to be mathematically plausible that the contaminated supplement caused your AAF.

    According to Howard, NADOs have not, to his knowledge, used other metabolites from allowed substances in a product to confirm that you actually took a given supplement in the stated amount or even at all.

    They rely on the math of the testing; if you knew all the details about how to present a plausible scenario for supplement contamination in advance, you'd know enough not to get caught in the first place.

    And, of course, this again speaks to the traditional investigative aspects of these cases. How believable - or not - is a story? There's no way to quantify that, and yet it is important. But, to answer the question posed on the forum, an athlete doesn't have to prove that he actually took something. He should have listed the supplement on his TDU form Therapeutic Declaration of Use , but this only covers the prior 72hrs. While some NADOs have interpreted that saving bottles constitutes an acknowledgement of the inherent risks of supplements, according to Howard, no NADO has successfully used that argument in arbitration against an athlete.

    While the list of what constitutes a supplement is certainly more broad than many folks realize, I don't believe that you need to save everything. While I don't think you should use gels in disposable wrappers for environmental reasons, I also don't think the industry is so unregulated as to necessitate your saving all of your gel wrappers either.

    If you don't view winning the lottery as a reasonable retirement plan, I don't think you need to hoard your trash either. Ultimately, you have to have some faith in something, and I choose to place my faith in math and in due diligence. If you do a bit of research and avoid bottles that look like the cover a comic book, you're way ahead. There's no reason with the ease of conducting research on the internet and with the third party certifications available that any athlete should ever have an AAF from a contaminated supplement.

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    Nate and Kate Fitness: Pre workout Review: Swole by Anabolic Outlaws

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