Athletics Australia is set to instruct all athletes to adopt a blanket ban on the use of supplements because the controversial products are considered to be of dubious physical benefit while the risks they present are great.
The athletics body’s integrity and ethics unit has drafted a policy outlining a push for a sweeping ban on supplements, except in cases such as an athlete requiring iron or vitamins as recommended by a doctor or health specialist.
The integrity unit’s draft will be presented to the AA board for ratification.
AA cannot prohibit an athlete from using a supplement that is not on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned list, but the policy highly recommends that athletes follow its advice. AA would also provide no assistance to purchase supplements.
AA said the policy change was needed as there were greater concerns over the source of supplements, many of which were now available on the internet and sourced from overseas, so athletes could not be certain they had not been contaminated.
The integrity unit said there was no scientific evidence to support claims of specific health and performance benefits.
The policy implied that most supplements had no beneficial effect on performance, and those that might improve performance were banned under the WADA code anyway.
”Our integrity and ethics unit will shortly submit a draft policy on supplements in sport to the Athletics Australia board of management for their consideration,” an AA spokesman said.
”Without wanting to pre-empt the delivery of that draft policy, it is based on the three principles of athlete health and safety, evidence-based science, and compliance with the WADA code.”
The spokesman said the draft policy recognised that not every high-performance athlete required supplements, and that the vast majority ”certainly did not”.
The draft notes that claims of specific health and performance benefits regarding supplements are not supported by scientific evidence, the spokesman said.
”The strong recommendation to athletes is that supplement use be discontinued except in a very limited number of cases. The draft policy includes a ban on virtually all supplement use by under-age athletes. It takes a hardline approach for young athletes based on the belief that situations in which individuals under the age of 18 would be required to use dietary nutritional supplements for sporting purposes are rare.
”Athletes under the age of 18 would be discouraged from using any performance-enhancing supplements, even group A supplements, such as caffeine, creatine and bicarbonate.
”The policy also recommends that the use of supplements should only take place on the advice of an accredited sport medicine professional. A stronger stance on supplementation is important as there are now widespread concerns about the availability of supplies that can be guaranteed as being uncontaminated.”
The spokesman said athletes would be advised not to take a supplement if:
■ It cannot be found on the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority ”Know your Substance” website;
■ After a match on the website, it is revealed that it is prohibited in sport;
■ It has been sourced from overseas or the internet.
”If in any doubt, an athlete will be expected to adopt a ‘no supplement’ policy,” he said.
AA is understood to be the first sporting body to recommend a broad ban like this.