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Concerns over sport supplement usage

Yesterday, UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) raised concerns over ‘quick fix’ sport supplement usage amongst exercising adults in Britain. Findings of a YouGov study showed that 87% of the exercising adults (N=1028) who have taken a supplement have done so without seeking the advice of a healthcare professional. These findings corroborate our own research with athletes, teachers and coaches alike.

Concerns over sport supplement usage

Without informed guidance and advice, consumers may be ingesting supplements that they do not need, or that do not have a robust evidence base to substantiate their purported effects. At the same time, they are increasing the risk of adverse health effects and failed doping tests due to the presence of contaminated and adulterated supplements on the market.

On the BBC Breakfast sofa, I stressed the importance of seeking the guidance of qualified healthcare professionals to assess if supplements are needed in the first place. In offering this advice, I also recognise that we need to ensure healthcare professionals are capable of providing qualified advice on supplement use. Through partnership working across professional associations in the UK, we are taking steps to develop this capability.

Professional bodies have a responsibility to provide appropriate training and development opportunities for their professionals. In the UK, Sport and Exercise Nutritionists on the competency based Sport and Exercise Nutrition Register (SENr) are guided in their practice by the SENr position statement on supplement use. The British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES) are also committed to educating current and future athlete support personnel through the provision of education and training.

Last year, BASES published the expert statement on inadvertent doping in sport to raise awareness of the risks on inadvertent doping through the use of medication, contaminated/adulterated supplements and contaminated food. The expert statement also provided a framework to minimise the likelihood of inadvertent doping from occurring. However, to realise the ambitions of this framework we not only need to raise awareness of the risks of consuming prohibited substances through the products we ingest, but we also need to address the social and environmental conditions that activate consumption of unnecessary capsules, tablets, powders and pills in the first place.

This blog post was produced by Prof Susan Backhouse during UK Anti-Doping’s #CleanSportWeek

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About the Author

Professor Susan Backhouse

Susan Backhouse is Professor of Psychology and Behavioural Nutrition and Head of the Centre for Sports Performance in the Institute for Sport, Physical Activity and Leisure. Susan is renowned for her research on the social psychology of doping in sport.

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