25 September 2012

Doping control lab to detect drug contaminated supplements

The world’s largest sports doping control laboratory is set to clean up the SA supplement industry with the launch of its supplement drug contamination screening programme.


The world’s largest sports doping control laboratory, HFL Sport Science (HFL), a division of biotechnology market leader, LGC Group, is set to clean up the South African supplement industry with the launch of its supplement drug contamination screening programme, aimed at minimising the risk of inadvertent doping by local athletes.

This is according to Dr Catherine Judkins, Business Sector Manager at HFL Sport Science, which is recognised by major sports authorities, national anti-doping agencies, and supplement companies around the world.

1 in 4 may be contaminated

HFL’s research has shown that up to one in four supplements purchased through standard retail channels may be contaminated with trace levels of steroids and/or stimulants (e.g. testosterone, methylhexanamine) as a direct result of inadvertent contamination (or deliberate contamination) of raw materials and/or cross-contamination within the manufacturing process.

Through the Informed-Sport and Informed-Choice programmes, HFL Sport Science’s anti-doping lab will target reputable supplement companies that sell products in SA to regularly test for prohibited substances; assess manufacturing processes and control; test production batches prior to release; and independently purchase registered products through standard retail channels for regular testing of products.

Judkins says that HFL’s Informed-Sport and Informed-Choice quality assurance programmes will help reputable supplement manufacturers minimise the risk of their products being inadvertently contaminatedwith banned substances that could give rise to a positive doping test for an athlete, by testing products for banned substances using highly sensitive analytical techniques.

“These programmes allow companies to use a logo on packaging to enable athletes to easily spot those products that have been tested for banned substances and have met the rigorous certification requirements by HFL’s anti-doping lab,” she adds.

Quality control varies

Judkins says that attention to quality control varies in areas around the world and imported raw ingredients could be contaminated and unknowingly be used by a reputable manufacturer in their products. “Cross-contamination during manufacture, due to inadequate cleaning procedures used between production runs of different products, mean that traces of ingredients used in one product may find their way into another,” she explains.

“This is why it is important for legitimate supplement manufacturers to commit to a regular programme of testing via an accredited doping control laboratory to ensure their supplements are not contaminated.”

HFL’s Informed-Sport programme has been welcomed by the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS).
Khalid Galant, CEO, SA Institute for Drug-Free Sport, says: “SAIDS welcomes the initiative, which will go along way in providing a higher level of confidence to the sports public with the testing of supplements by HFL, a renowned sports doping control laboratory.”
HFL launched its Informed-Choice and Informed-Sport supplement certification programmes internationally in 2007 and 2008, respectively. A 2007 analysis of 58 supplements purchased through standard retail outlets in the USA by HFL found that 25% contained steroid contaminants and 11% were contaminated with stimulants. In 2008 HFL undertook the analysis of 152 supplements purchased through standard retail outlets within the UK and found that over 10% were contaminated with steroids and/or stimulants.

HFL now tests over 5 000 supplements every year, across 16 countries for banned substances using methods accredited to ISO 17025 standard, the key standard for any analytical laboratory.

Judkins says that effective quality assurance can reduce the risks of contamination to negligible levels.

“It has become routine for athletes to blame the contamination of sports supplements for positive doping tests and athletes can be assured that products bearing the Informed-Sport or Informed-Choice logo have passed a rigorous certification process, thereby minimising the chances of inadvertent doping,” she explains.

Be careful when buying supplements

Dr Glen Hagemann, President of the South African Sports Medicine Association, says that he encourages athletes to only purchase those supplements that have gone through HFL Sport Science’s testing programmes and that have been audited for quality and efficacy as it is in their professional, reputational and health interests to do so.
“There should be no excuses,” he adds. “With the support of the supplement industry we can absolutely minimize the risk of inadvertent contamination. Strict liability will always apply, so athletes, coaches, nutritionists and parents of young athletes need to take notice of the available information.”

Do you use sports supplements? What has been your experience with them? E-mail us at

(Press release, September 2012)

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Your guide to legal supplements





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