Photo credit: NSF International
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In an effort to increase transparency and hopefully help educate athletes along the way, we’re digging into the topic of banned substances in CrossFit. For starters, we need to go where all the exploding athletes go: the testing lab.
The testing labs we’re talking about do a number of things. From product testing to inspections and even supplement certification to ensure their products are “clean”. There are a handful of reputable labs that specialize in testing for hundreds of sports teams and thousands of professional athletes such as International Drug Free Sport (CrossFit has been a partner since 2010), Prohibited Substance Control Group, LGC and NSF International. Essentially, these labs give the green light that products have been independently reviewed and met specific standards for safety, quality, durability or performance.
If the product passes the test, a stamp of approval, “Certified for sport”,, is placed on the labeling to help athletes identify which supplements have gone through these rigorous tests. Tests for almost 300 different banned substances ranging from stimulants, steroids, SARMS, masking agents and anything else that could result in a positive drug test.
But what we’re talking about goes beyond that. We’re looking at supplements that aren’t certified for exercise, and why, although their ingredient labels don’t include banned products, they’re still found in supplements.
âAn athlete might be looking at something that isn’t making ridiculous muscle building claims, it could be an energy claim, but is actually amphetamine fortified,â said David Trosin, global managing director. NSF Health Sciences Certification Programs. âWe see the strangest things in supplements like morphine and even cocaine,â he continued. While hearing Trosin say he found cocaine in supplements was both shocking and alarming, he’s not the one that comes up often. The most common ingredient that slips into supplements in recent years is ostarine.
Ostrine, a Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator or SARM, was the banned substance for which Brazilian athlete Larissa Cunha tested positive and prevented her from competing in the 2021 CrossFit Games. was able to prove to CrossFit that his supplements were unknowingly contaminated with ostarine, ultimately reducing his ban from four years to two years.
Other notable athletes who recently tested positive for ostarine included Janelle Stites, a member of On Track’s fifth-place team that qualified for the Games through the Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Challenge, rookie of the 2019 Games Katie Trombetta, the Brazilian volleyball Olympian. Tandara Caixeta and British sprinter and Olympic silver medalist CJ Oujah. Caixeta’s lawyer said in a letter: “Recently many Brazilian athletes have fallen victim to incidents involving ostarine.” The question we are asking now is why ostarine is gaining ground in supplements and how does it get there?
âIt’s popular because it’s effective. This can happen in a number of ways (going into supplements) because it’s a very complex supply chain, âTrosin said. Right off the bat, Trosin said if an athlete gets their products from a prep pharmacy where the products are combined or blended with other ingredients, that’s a red flag. He said having your supplements mixed in is an easy way for outside products to get in. From there, he breaks down the supply chain.
âIf you think of the supply chain, raw materials start overseas and are processed overseas. Then they’re sent to a broker, then sold to another broker here in the United States, then sold to a manufacturer and ultimately incorporated into a product, âTrosin said. This means that some products go through six different operating windows before the consumer sees the final product.
âIn any of these lines you have a number of people and maybe you’re looking for an energy premix that can be mixed here in the United States or maybe overseas, and someone along the supply chain might say, ‘we know something that’s going to weigh that,’ and put it in the premix, and then the product becomes incredibly effective, ‘continued Trosin.
âIt gives you a ton of energy and you might think, ‘well that’s because it’s high in caffeine,’ let’s say there’s 200 mg of caffeine. But in the background, there might be. have dimethylamylamine or DMAA, it’s not caffeine, it’s a methamphetamine-like substance that turns you on. The mark could be completely innocent saying, “We didn’t ask for that there- in it, âbut the premix maker says,â if that’s effective, they’re going to keep coming back and buying more, âthen it could be a bad supply chain that is boosting her,â Trosin said.
So if the supplement company that sells their product to you doesn’t know what’s really in their supplements, who is responsible? In short, the brand and the athlete.
âThe brand is always responsible because its name is there so ultimately it bears legal responsibility. They may be at fault without knowing it because they may have said to someone, “we want to buy an energy premix and this is what we want it to have …” but someone one on the other side, back in the supply chain, may have doped it and never informed the brand. So it could be that the brand is getting something and never knew it unless it was tested in the lab, âTrosin said.
The athlete takes responsibility because they are the ones who test positive, which can cost them their careers and damage their reputation.
This then brings us back to the question of why. The answer? A theme common to most decisions made in life: money. The incentive to tamper with supplements runs down the supply chain. If the banned substance âworksâ and drives sales of the product, customer loyalty is earned and the brand will continue to use the same supply chain and manufacturer.
âIt can happen anywhere along the supply chain and that’s why we exist and that’s why athletes have to stick with a certified sport product because you don’t know and they don’t have the luxury of saying I won’t be tested for banned substance. Even though it’s something as innocent as fish oil that’s probably pretty unlikely to be fortified, they have to put it back in. question because it goes through those same facilities, âexplained Trosin.