The use of nutritional or performance enhancing substances is fast becoming a trend in school sport. What should you, as a parent, know about these supplements?
National and international sporting bodies place the responsibility of using supplements on the sportsperson. The legal clause “strict liability” means that the sportsperson is responsible for any and all substances appearing in his or her urine and blood.
What are the boundaries?
Unlike medicines, which are regulated by the Medicines Control Council, there is no governing body to control and regulate the supplement industry in South Africa. Many supplements may therefore contain banned substances where all the ingredients are not accurately listed on the label of the product. It’s easy for young athletes to be caught in the middle. For example, Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is available on the consumer market, yet banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Athletes need readily available, clear-cut information between what is available and what is illegal.
- Supplements should only be taken when a dietician (with sports nutrition experience) can prove that the athlete’s diet cannot provide the quantities of nutrients needed. This evaluation should take into account the body composition goals, dietary and medical history, food practices and preferences, training and competition nutritional requirements, and budgetary constraints.
- Dosages need to be carefully calculated to avoid overdose.
- Diet and supplement changes must be determined long before a major competition as individuals may respond differently to supplements; for example 30% of athletes may not respond to creatine supplementation. Written prescriptions for supplements are to be provided by a sports physician or dietician and not by fitness coaches and conditioning staff.
- No persons under the age of 18 should take any sport-specific supplements without the advice of a sports physician or dietician.
- All supplement labels should be carefully studied and the ingredients noted. Look for hidden relationships between ingredients (e.g. caffeine and guarana), unstated ingredients (e.g. fat-burning supplements that may contain hidden banned stimulant products) and avoid the prohormone supplements that are banned by sporting federations.
- The supplier should provide a certificate stating that the product was tested at an independent IOC accredited laboratory and shown to be free from prohibited substances; a list of the contents of the different products; and accept full liability for a positive doping test as a result of the use thereof. This guarantee should be on a company letterhead, signed by management and dated; include the contact details for the person responsible for issuing the guarantee; and be addressed to the athlete personally.
Our Employee Wellbeing Programme (EWP) is available 24 hours a day. If you want to know more about banned substances in sport, call us on the EWP number or email us at
var prefix = 'ma' + 'il' + 'to';
var path = 'hr' + 'ef' + '=';
var addy98133 = 'help' + '@';
addy98133 = addy98133 + 'lifeassist' + '.' + 'co' + '.' + 'za';