Worldwide, governments and professional sporting bodies have
expressed their outrage that the use of banned performance-enhancing drugs in
professional sport has yet again come to the fore.
Many South African sporting professionals too, have been
tested, and found positive for banned substances, with authorities claiming, to
enhance their performance. This alarming trend is highlighted in recent
statistics released by the SA Institute for Drug Free Sport revealing 55 doping
violations between April 2011 and June 2012.
Whereas some athletes use drugs to seek a competitive
advantage, others, including amateurs, may inadvertently consume banned
ingredients through sports nutrition products. This is according to Deon Lewis,
Managing Director of Cipla Nutrition, the recently launched sports supplement
brand which is a brand extension of leading JSE-listed South African
pharmaceutical company, Cipla Medpro.
“Doping in professional sport is not a new phenomenon, and
has been happening for a long time. Doping unfortunately happens in many sports
and the products used by dopers are often not illegal, that is, it is not a
criminal offence to take them. However, these substances are banned by the
World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), as they are seen as an enhancing stimulant,
and as such, are banned in professional sport,” says Lewis.
Punishing is not the
He says that the problem of doping in sport is a complicated
one and cannot be solved by merely punishing those who have doped. “This is due
to the fact that many athletes are often unaware that they could be taking a
banned substance, often found in their nutritional supplements.
This is what happened to South African rugby players Bjorn
Basson and Chiliboy Ralepelle in late 2010, who both tested positive for the
banned stimulant methylhexaneamine while on an international rugby tour.” Last
year’s Comrades winner, Ludwick Mamabolo, also tested positive for this banned
substance, which sent waves of disappointment through the running community.
Lewis says compounding the problem is the fact that sports
nutrition products are generally manufactured in facilities that are not
regulated. “This means that products are manufactured in facilities where both
‘clean’ substances and WADA-banned substances are found under one roof.
Thus, when manufacturing takes place, both ‘clean’ and
WADA-banned substances may have been used in sequential batch runs to
manufacture different products in the same equipment, but the equipment may not
be thoroughly cleaned or sterilized between batches. This means the opportunity
for cross-contamination between non-banned and banned substances increases
Ingredients the manufacturer
Often the supplier of the raw ingredients to the
manufacturer may also not be reliable, which means the ingredient could be
contaminated at source and thus taint the end product. Some raw-material
(ingredients) are so sensitive that they could even get contaminated (with
other raw material) in storage just from being placed next to each other on the
With no regulation or
legislation in place in the manufacture of these supplements, there is very
little guarantee that many sports nutrition products are not contaminated with
He explains that consumers cannot therefore be guaranteed of
the safety and quality of ingredients that many sports nutrition products claim
to possess. However, he says that even though it is an unregulated industry,
products that are manufactured in an approved Medicines Control Council
(MCC)-licensed facility that has also been certified for current Good
Manufacturing Practice (cGMP), could potentially be much safer.
“The MCC in South Africa governs the medicines landscape to
ensure that all medicines available to the public meet strict criteria. When a
product is manufactured in a (MCC)-licensed facility, it means that the product
manufacturing complies to good quality and efficacy standards.
“Better controls in terms of doping tests also need to be
implemented locally. Although it is an
expensive process to continually test athletes, the Biological Passport
screening method, recently implemented in South Africa, could help curb this
This method, a DNA fingerprint, essentially monitors
selected biological markers in athletes, whose abnormal variations could
indicate doping. If inconsistencies are picked up, further tests can then be
conducted to confirm whether the athlete is indeed doping.
By building up a history of the athletes in a computerised
system and testing various samples in relation to new ones, it is possible to
effectively tackle the growing issue of doping.”
“As a starting point, aspiring and professional athletes
should ensure their sports nutrition products are manufactured in a
MCC-licensed and cGMP-certified facility, supporting the manufacturing of high
quality products in a controlled environment. This could potentially reduce the
risk of consuming products contaminated with banned substances.
He says that the problem is aggravated by an interest in
stimulants and anabolic agents at an early age. “Amateur athletes that show
potential in turning professional, often start taking the enhancers at an early
age. Many athletes feel the competitive pressure at this early stage of their
careers, and take products irresponsibly.”
Lewis adds that sports nutrition products should also carry
an age restriction a
nd those products taken by promising young sports athletes
should be supervised by their parents, guardians or coaches, to ensure that
they use optimal and safe sports nutrition.
Cipla Nutrition products are manufactured in a MCC-licensed,
cGMP-certified and Halaal approved facility, ensuring the supply of high
quality products. For more information about the Cipla Nutrition range, please
the Cipla Nutrition website.