'Choose your supplements wisely'

HARARE - The best advice for anyone when discussing drugs and supplements in sports is BE INFORMED - BE EDUCATED - BE AWARE.

As an athlete you are responsible and you are accountable for whatever is in YOUR system. You are at fault. Nobody else. Period.

Established careers and potential careers have been thrown away through misuse and abuse of drugs and supplementation and in many cases are a direct result of negligence and poor education on the matter.

The South African Institute for Drug Free Sport (SAIDS) highlight the stark reality of the drug and supplementation industry that we are routinely subjected to and bombarded by today.

The availability of supplements is far greater today than it has ever been, it is practically in our faces through effective print media and in containers.

The marketing budgets of the top brands is immense, they are highly strategic in who they target, especially with their 'designer supplements' and the biggest market is sadly the young user.

The marketing strategy is often misleading, they sell you the quick and easy way, the best way...the only way!

Truth is as an athlete there is no easy way. You have to invest in your genetics and there are endless hours of strategic and hard work, just to make marginal gains in performance.

And then you need to be consistent with your efforts to meet performance objectives. At the top you can never stop working at making gains...you can never stop!

There is an alarming increase in the number of reports of damaging health effects and positive doping tests related to supplement use in South Africa (and globally) from  toxic effects (self medicating with no medical guidance) to allergic reactions and poisoning (contaminants).

These can all be linked to negligence and poor education on supplementation. The misuse of the stimulant ephedrine around 2004 in North American sports, particularly baseball, caused a number of athletes to suffer disastrous side effects and in some cases death. It is real, no fairytale ending here.

So, what do you need to know? There is a lack of supplement manufacturing and marketing legalisation glocally (global and local) which means there is no 'watchdog' to oversee malpractice when it comes to honestly and accurately stating that what is listed on the supplement label is in actual fact in the container.

Even apparently harmless or legitimate dietary supplements may be problematic due to contaminants and residue being carried over in the mixing program within laboratories.

If you are involved in a supplementation program and you lack the guidance of a coach or nutritionist then these three websites will be of use to you.

Take some time to read the attached documentation they provide, navigate the site strategically and gain knowledge before purchase or use.

www.informed-choice.org (useful search engine for safe and tested supplementation)

www.drugfreesport.org.za (useful for checking banned status of supplement ingredients)

www.wada-ama.org (World Anti Doping Agency official web page - you can find the latest prohibited substances list here).

I don't condone the use of supplements as a strength and conditioning coach as I see the strategic  role they play in the nutritional program, but I do question the ethics of athletes, coaches, distributors and manufacturing companies who set out to misuse or abuse.

The side effects are harming when it goes badly wrong. Empower yourself through research to make an informed choice.

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