It is reported that most athletes get nutritional advice from coaches, fellow athletes, family members, and friends, suggesting that more wide-reaching educational interventions, at an early age, are necessary.
Key points for athletes using nutritional supplements:
A natural supplement is not necessarily a safe supplement.
Use products by established manufacturers with known good quality standards.
Athletes are personally responsible for any substances they consume.
Ignorance is not accepted as an excuse concerning a positive doping test.
Doping refers to the use of a substance or method which is potentially dangerous to athletes’ health or capable of enhancing their performance.
Death among athletes doping with anabolic androgenic steroids is estimated to be 6-20 times higher than in clean athletes, and around 30% of these deaths can be attributed to cardiovascular causes.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) maintains a list of prohibited drugs, but nutritional substances are not included since many are unregulated and unlicensed.
The use of legal supplements by athletes varies between 40% and 100% depending on the sport and level of competition. Intended to enhance performance and give a competitive edge, legal supplements include caffeine, creatine, energy drinks/gels/bars, beetroot juice, and proteins.
While caffeine improves performance, particularly aerobic capacity in endurance athletes, its abuse may lead to fast heart rate (tachycardia), heart rhythm disorders (arrhythmias), high blood pressure, and in some cases sudden cardiac death.
Many elite athletes consume a combination of supplements daily. Unfortunately, it is common practice for athletes to ignore dosing recommendations and use multiple drugs simultaneously.
Sportspeople should be aware that supplement use exposes them to the risk of ingesting prohibited substances since they are regulated like food ingredients and not subject to the rigorous safety standards of pharmaceutical products.
The ongoing use of selective androgen receptor modulators or peptides “carry a substantial risk for long-term detrimental health consequences, which are usually understated by their promoters,” states the paper.
It also highlights that gene doping to improve strength, reduce pain, and repair tissues are expected to occur behind the scenes with limited protective actions and consequently increased health risks and constitutes a great threat of major concern about the future of human performance manipulation.
Athletes should be aware that natural supplements and substances are not necessarily safe and should only be used if recommended by professional nutritionists. It is fundamental to use products from well-established manufacturers with known and internationally approved good quality standards.