Informed Sport is a global testing and supplement certification programme which provides assurance to athletes that products carrying the Informed Sport mark have been tested for prohibited substances and manufactured to high-quality standards. Informed Sport tests every single batch of a product before it's released to market. After certification, we continually blind test to further ensure the integrity and the safety of the product.
Research has shown that some supplement products may be contaminated with low levels of steroids, stimulants or other substances which are prohibited by WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) and other sporting bodies. Informed Sport aims to work closely with supplement manufacturers and suppliers by providing high-quality analytical testing and certified supplements to minimise the incidence of product contamination and banned substances finding their way into sport.
The Informed Sport programme was established in 2008 by one of the world's leading doping control laboratories, LGC (formerly HFL Sport Science). Although LGC has been testing supplements since 2002, it became clear that there was a need for a comprehensive certification programme that not only tested products for banned substances but also ensured that manufacturing facilities had the highest quality standards.
Informed Sport certification is voluntary for supplement companies who wish to certify some, or all, of their products onto the programme. Once certified, products can carry the Informed Sport logo or on-pack descriptor. Athletes who see the Informed Sport mark on a product can be assured it has undergone a rigorous screening programme for banned substances in sport and is safer for use. We always recommend verifying a product's batch number by performing a quick search on our website. You can search by batch number, brand name, product name and formulation.
The LGC supplement testing lab is accredited to ISO/IEC 17025, a globally recognised standard relating to laboratories and test procedures. LGC hold accreditation for a broad range of analytical testing, including the analysis of nutritional supplements for banned substances. LGC has held accreditation for supplement analysis since 2003 and is frequently inspected by the accreditation bodies UKAS (the United Kingdom Accreditation Service - LGC laboratory number 1187) and A2LA (the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation - LGC certificate no. 3244.01). During inspections, analytical methodology and validation data are independently assessed by a third-party auditor/expert, providing confidence to brands and consumers alike that methodology and analytical procedures meet some of the most stringent certification standards possible.
Accreditation held by LGC covers all common supplement matrix types (e.g. powders, liquids, bars, gels, capsules, tablets, etc.), with test procedures having defined method capability/reporting levels.
ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation is critical for any laboratory, in that it shows that test procedures have been independently assessed/evaluated objectively by third-party industry experts. LGC has held ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation for supplement analysis since 2003.
Independent audits ensure that test methodology and validation data are "fit for purpose" for each individual test.
At LGC, stringent quality control measures are adopted for each and every sample, to validate both analysis and extraction procedures. This provides brands and consumers alike with the assurance that test results are both robust and reliable. The analysis of such control samples also allows LGC to identify problematic and challenging sample matrices, where additional investigative work may be required - a growing requirement within the evolving supplement market. Where a laboratory does not have such exacting quality standards (as required by ISO/IEC 17025), such problems may be overlooked, resulting in the false reporting of an unsubstantiated result.
LGC has more than 55 years of experience as a regulatory doping control laboratory, testing both animal and human biological samples for the presence of substances prohibited in sport. Between 2004 and 2007, LGC (formerly HFL Sport Science) were accredited by WADA/IOC for the testing of athlete samples. However, in 2007 and following rising concerns from athletes regarding supplement contamination, LGC voluntarily withdrew this certification to focus efforts on the testing of supplement products for banned substances.
WADA accredited laboratories cannot commercially test supplement products for endorsement purposes - the following extract is taken from the WADA website:
WADA is not involved in any certification process regarding supplements and therefore does not certify or endorse manufacturers or their products. WADA does not control the quality or the claims of the supplements industry which may, from time to time, claim that their products have been approved or certified by WADA.
Our extensive experience as a sports anti-doping laboratory provides us with a unique understanding of the sports regulatory environment from a laboratory perspective.
WADA testing is specifically targeted at the analysis of human biological matrices (e.g. urine, blood, etc.). There is no such thing as a "WADA test" for anything else. However, WADA testing for urine/blood is carried out to ISO/IEC 17025 standards. ISO/IEC 17025 is an international laboratory and testing standard. Any tests that are accredited to this standard have been developed and validated in line with international requirements and are independently assessed/evaluated objectively by third-party industry experts.
The testing lab used by Informed Sport (LGC) performs supplement testing to the same international analytical standard (ISO/IEC 17025).
LGC has been testing supplement products for prohibited substances since 2002 and has tested tens of thousands of product/ingredient samples during that time. LGC currently tests over 20,000 samples per year for more than 600 companies worldwide.
Unfortunately, no supplement testing programme can test for all substances which would be considered prohibited in sport. This is also highlighted by the fact that even the WADA prohibited list is open-ended; using the wording "other substances with a similar chemical structure or similar biological effect(s) in specific sections of the list. There is no specific list defining all prohibited substances.
In addition, the WADA prohibited list is specifically focused on the analysis of human biological samples (e.g. urine, blood, etc.). As such, WADA laboratories will also be testing samples for a wide range of metabolites (i.e. the metabolic breakdown products of drugs). With respect to the analysis of supplement products, the analysis will typically focus on the presence of the parent drug. '
Although it is not possible to test for all substances on the WADA prohibited list, through its experience in testing over 150,000 samples and its close relationship with the anti-doping community, LGC has been able to develop an extensive screening programme to manage product integrity; addressing both historic and emerging threats within the supplements industry.
LGC/s testing capability for supplements includes the analysis of over 250 substances that are prohibited in sport and substances that pose a threat in respect to product contamination. These substances include the drugs of abuse, anabolic agents, stimulants, beta-2-agonists, masking agents, diuretics and new and emerging threats such as SARM's, Vaptans and PPAR's, etc.
Informed Sport currently does not allow any cannabinoid containing products onto the Informed Sport programme. This includes CBD extracts, gummies, hemp protein, and others that knowingly contain CBD or THC.
Although we do not currently certify cannabinoid containing products, we are evaluating our position and how it relates to the scientific literature available and our own internal research projects. We are in the process of developing a suitable test for the market, but at current it is not associated with the Informed Sport programme.
With the evolution of test methodology and instrumentation over the last decade, detection capabilities in the field of anti-doping are continually improving. It is common practice for WADA laboratories to test urine samples in the low ng/g (10-9) (part per billion) region; with some test procedures having detection capabilities at even lower levels e.g. in the picogram (10-12) range.
It is therefore imperative to ensure that the detection levels employed for the analysis of supplement products are sensitive enough to limit the risk of inadvertent doping.
Research has shown that for certain compounds, consuming as little as microgram (10-6) quantities of a prohibited substance, could give rise to an adverse finding i.e. a doping violation. Obviously, these levels will vary based on drug compound and class; noting that all drugs will be metabolized differently. However, such knowledge and data further emphasises the requirement for testing procedures to be fit for purpose.
LGC conducts extensive method development and validation analysis to ISO/IEC 17025 standards to establish detection capabilities in the low to mid ng/g (part per billion) region for most compounds included with its screening programmes; providing athletes and consumers with the assurance that products have been tested to some of the most stringent standards possible with respect to banned substances.
The key difference between Informed Sport and Informed Choice is the frequency of testing. Informed Sport tests every batch before a product is sold. Informed Choice regularly tests products on a monthly blind testing schedule.
For further insight, please read our Informed Sport vs Informed Choice: What is the Difference? blog.