In November 2016, ASADA published an athlete warning on the banned substance Higenamine, following a spike in the number of detections. Since then, six more Australian athletes have tested positive for Higenamine, bringing the total number of positives for that substance to 13 across nine different sports. So if you take supplements, your sporting career could be at risk too.
Higenamine is a Beta-2 Agonist (these type of substances allow lungs to take in more oxygen) and is prohibited in- and out-of-competition. Today it is found in many popular supplements, including:
- Alpha T2
- PES Amphamine Advanced
- as well as a number of other products.
It is often described as ‘natural’, and has also been listed as an ingredient on supplement labels as:
- Nandina domestica
- Tinospora crispa
- Aconitum japonicum
- Gnetum Parvifolium
- Asarum hetertropoides
What can you do?
There are a number of things you can do to prevent a positive test.
1. Don’t take supplements.
All supplements are risky, and none can guarantee 100% that they do not contain prohibited substances. Supplements can be accidentally cross contaminated by other substances made in the same factory, or can contain prohibited substances deliberately included by the manufacturer to ensure users get results, while failing to list the ingredient on labels.
Before you take any supplements, seek the advice of your doctor or sports dietician about whether you really need them, or whether changes to your diet or training program could get better results instead. Many studies suggest there is little evidence that athletes need supplements given a well-balanced diet.
2. Choose a low-risk, tested supplement
If you choose to take supplements, despite the risk, consider using one which has been tested by an independent auditing company. Informed Sport and HASTA both offer testing before the product hits the shelf, and Informed Sport lists all tested products on their website. These do not give you a 100% guarantee, but are less risky than other non-tested supplements.
3. Check the ingredients
DO NOT take a supplement if you do not know the ingredients. You can check some ingredients on GlobalDro, but since ingredients can have more than 20 different names, not every version is listed. And, as above, not every ingredient is always listed.
4. Follow the AIS guidelines
The Australian Institute of Sport issues guidelines to help categorise supplements by risk and efficacy. Their matrix can help you decide whether it is worthwhile taking a supplement, and how to reduce your risk.
5. Educate yourself
Importantly, because of the manufacturing processes, the contents of supplements can vary from batch-to-batch and may contain prohibited substances in sport regardless of what is listed in the label. As such, ASADA cannot give any specific supplements the all clear. ASADA does not endorse any supplements.
The word from the IOC
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Medical & Scientific Commission recently held a summit where it was concluded that while “diet significantly influences athletic performance… the use of supplements does not compensate for poor food choices and an inadequate diet.” It was also noted at the summit that “quality assurance in supplement manufacture, storage and distribution is sometimes not strictly enforced, leading to products that are of poor quality or contaminated.”
This comment is supported by a survey conducted by LGC, which found that 1 in 5 supplements bought off Australian shelves contained a banned substance, whether it was listed on the label or not.