Europeans slam Athletics Australia’s ‘kneejerk’ supplements slap

ESSNA's Dr Adam Carey: "...I’d prefer to see sports medicine professionals, coaches and administrators working together to educate and inform professional sportsmen and women..."

Athletics Australia (AA) is wrong to warn its young and elite athletes off food and sports supplements as they can provide benefits at next-to-no risk, Europe’s sports nutrition sector has said.

Dr Adam Carey, chair of the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA) said better education was the order of the day, not a rash call that places all supplements under the same non-trustworthy marquee when most are as safe as any other foodstuff.

Whilst I understand some of Athletics Australia’s concerns, warning athletes off all food supplements entirely does seem something of an over-reaction,” Dr Carey said.

“As the International Olympics Committee (IOC) themselves acknowledged in 2011, properly labelled supplements – and ideally supplements that have gone through the Informed-Sport testing regime – can be beneficial for many professional athletes seeking to achieve peak performance.”

He added: “Instead of this rather kneejerk blanket ban being pushed by Athletics Australia, I’d prefer to see sports medicine professionals, coaches and administrators working together to educate and inform professional sportsmen and women about the effectiveness of food supplements, what they should be taking and what they should be avoiding.”

AA's mooted action

AA’s integrity and ethics unit has drafted a policy document calling on athletes to forego food supplement use except when an athlete has a doctor’s prescription for a nutrient deficiency like iron or vitamin D. Younger athletes should almost never take them.

''Without wanting to pre-empt the delivery of that draft policy, it is based on the three principles of athlete health and safety, evidence-based science, and compliance with the WADA code,” an AA spokesman said in local press reports.

“A stronger stance on supplementation is important as there are now widespread concerns about the availability of supplies that can be guaranteed as being uncontaminated.''

Globally, supplement policies vary greatly among athletic organisations. UK Athletics advises athletes that if they are going to take supplements, those that have passed through a HFL Sports Science Informed-Sport testing scheme are the safest, if not 100% safe.

Of that position, UK Athletics spokesperson Alex Ferguson told us: "The use of dietary supplements by athletes is a concern because in many countries the manufacturing and labelling of supplements may not follow strict rules, which may lead to a supplement containing an undeclared substance that is prohibited under anti-doping regulations."

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2011 reversed its former position and said some food supplements could be beneficial to athletes. 

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