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Supplements: a risk for all athletes

Stock image of man making protein shake

Supplements are a risk for all athletes.

Supplement products include (but aren’t limited to) pre-workouts, fat burners, branch chain amino acids (BCAAs), energy or rehydration drinks, vitamins and protein bars or powders. Pharmacy products (e.g. pain relief), herbal remedies (e.g. natural immune support) and some cosmetic/personal care products (e.g. eyelash serum) also carry a level of risk.

We don’t approve any supplements, or their use, because of this risk.

Supplements can contain substances that are banned in sport.

They’re produced in factories, not medical laboratories, which increases the risk of cross-contamination. Inaccurate labelling (deliberate or accidental) also makes it difficult to know what’s really in supplement products. Even words like ‘natural’ and ‘herbal’ don’t necessarily mean a product is safe. Some natural substances are banned in sport, and contamination remains a risk. 

Supplement contamination is a risk, even here in New Zealand. In 2022, Consumer NZ found illegal drugs in six separate supplement products.

Athletes can and do test positive after taking contaminated supplements. When this happens, the consequences can be life changing. You are responsible for anything found in your sample during testing - even if you took the substance unknowingly.

Read about athletes whose careers have been affected by contaminated supplements:

Make an informed decision

The safest option is a food-first approach to nutrition. But we know that many athletes nonetheless choose to use supplements or are on a supplement programme. If that’s you, it’s important to make an informed decision. Our Supplement Decision-Making Guide can help by showing you ways you can minimise – but not eliminate – supplement risks. 

Read the Supplement Decision-Making Guide

Manage your risk: Things to know

  • The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) doesn’t approve any supplements. Claims that a supplement is “approved by WADA” are misleading. 
  • Know that supplement safety and effectiveness is rarely proven in those under 18, those with medical conditions, or those who use other substances. 
  • If using a supplement, be aware that using incorrect dosages (i.e. more than advised on the label) can be dangerous for your health. 
  • If tested, list all substances you’ve used – including all supplements – on your paperwork. 
  • By using a supplement product, you accept the risk that you may test positive for a prohibited substance.  

Supplement FAQs

Useful links