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Informed-Sport: Proof of Raised Standards in Sports Nutrition

Terence O’Rorke assesses the continuing commitment by the sports nutrition industry to raise the standards of quality assurance and address the issue of inadvertent doping.

As the world of sport stumbles from one doping scandal to another, the continued growth of Informed-Sport is firm evidence that the sports nutrition industry has adopted a responsible approach to ‘inadvertent doping’. The continuing commitment by brands across the world to Informed-Sport has not only served to promote clean sport, it has also boosted the use of supplements and helped address reputational issues created by rogue brands.

Sports fans may have assumed that doping had reached a tipping point when Lance Armstrong was sanctioned in 2012 after many years of banned substance use.

But recent accusations of cover ups in Russia, widespread doping in athletics, and large number of positives following re-testing of Olympic samples, suggest that Armstrong was just the tip of the iceberg.

The supplements industry has always had a complicated relationship with elite sport and the anti-doping community. Elite athletes – research suggests 90% of them – use supplements, and yet they are exposed to risk because contamination can result in an anti-doping violation. This is called ‘inadvertent doping’.

But while sport and anti-doping struggles with the seemingly endless number of intentional dopers, the supplements industry has worked hard to minimise inadvertent doping through Informed-Sport. At the last count Informed-Sport had 420 registered products from across the world; that figure looks set to hit 500 this year. There were 200 at the start of 2014, and this exceptional growth is a clear sign of the quality assurance steps taken by the industry.

Aligned with this growth is the increased recognition from sports and the anti-doping community that Informed-Sport protects athletes. More and more National Anti-Doping Organisations (NADOs) are insisting that athletes use Informed-Sport products only – they know it is the most effective way to minimise risk.

Furthermore, inadvertent doping is now recognised in the World Anti-Doping Code. If an athlete can show that they did their due diligence by checking the product was on Informed-Sport then their sanction can be reduced to just a warning.  An Informed-Sport product has never been implicated in a doping case since the programme started in 2008. But science is ever-changing and the need to be vigilant is never-ending. Informed-Sport was developed with UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) and designed to be as robust as possible. It is a testament to the supplements industry that it has been so widely adopted to become the only globally-recognised programme.