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Why is Banned Substance Testing Important?

Informed Sport - Why is Banned Substance Testing Important

We regularly read news stories of an athlete getting suspended due to testing positive for a banned substance. Numerous times, the athlete had taken supplements that were inadvertently contaminated. If an athlete tests positive for a banned substance due to inadvertent doping, it not only costs them playing time but also millions of dollars, endorsements and the public’s perception of them are tarnished. Based on our surveys and testing, 10-15% of supplements on the market may suffer from low levels of contamination. Even if the contamination levels are low, an athlete may still test positive. Also, athletes tend to take numerous supplements, multiple times per day, to help with recovery and performance which ultimately can increase these levels. If any of these supplements contain even low levels of a banned substance, the accumulative levels could trigger an adverse finding in their drug test.

From a supplement brand perspective, even low levels of contamination in their product could have devastating consequences. The fact is, many athletes knowingly do cheat and use performance-enhancing drugs. In these cases, they tend to blame the supplements they are using as the cause for their failed drug test as their defense. Even if the low levels of contamination in the product did not cause the athletes to fail a drug test, it could be used as a defense and publicly disclosed.

Sources of Supplement Contamination - Informed Sport

The majority of contamination of supplements is inadvertent and typically occurs one of the following ways:

Cross-contamination During the Manufacturing Process

Manufacturing facilities and all equipment used to produce supplements must be thoroughly cleaned between batches. To safeguard against cross-contamination, Informed Sport performs a thorough manufacturing audit prior to product certification. The consistency of numerous banned substances can be very sticky and are difficult to isolate. This makes ridding equipment of them a challenge. When analysing a manufacturing facility, other critical control points must be looked at. Contamination can occur due to improper storage, ingredient handling, and dust management as ingredients can go airborne. 

Our audit looks for all the critical control points where cross-contamination could occur. This knowledge is based on over 12 years of audits in over 550 manufacturing facilities worldwide. The audit includes reviewing Standard Operating Procedures for all production, packing, and storage areas to make certain cleaning processes are in place to eliminate the possibility of contamination. During an audit, Informed Sport identifies any high-risk materials and develops a corrective plan to ensure these materials are removed and do not come in any contact with Informed Sport certified products and the equipment they’re produced on. 

Botanical (Plant-Based) Supplements

Many times, the source of contamination comes from a plant source(s). Some plant materials can include naturally occurring steroidal or stimulant compounds. Oftentimes, these ingredients can be overlooked in regards to testing for banned substances or are not known to contain a banned compound. Because of this, plant-based supplements can carry varying amounts of a banned compound, thus, resulting in a failed drug test. The Informed Sport programme recognizes this risk. Our world-class anti-doping lab is able to detect these naturally occurring compounds and determine if they are at levels to pose a risk to athletes. The sporting industry recommends only use products that have been tested for banned substances using ISO 17025 accredited methods. Informed Sport testing is accredited to ISO 17025 standards.   

Cross-contamination Between Ingredients Within the Supply Chain

Ingredients used in supplement production may be produced in countries with poor quality control standards. We have seen this be an issue with inadvertent contamination in finished products many times. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require testing for inadvertent contamination of banned substances in ingredients.

Informed Sport performs a Raw Material Supplier Assessment to confirm the manufacturer has a vendor qualification program in place. The vendor qualification program must include a process to identify whether the supplier produces or handles banned substances.

To safeguard your career and reputation, it is important that any supplement you are providing, or taking, has been tested by a third-party testing and certification programme. Sports nutrition supplements brands can trust their certified product(s) have been robustly tested to the highest of standards. Athletes can confirm a product batch has been tested by searching by batch number, product name, or brand name on All certified products, along with tested batch numbers, are listed on 

For more information on the importance of banned substance testing, download our Supplement Safety Guide. You'll also find:
  • prohibited substances and their possible side effects
  • the threat of inadvertent doping to sports programmes
  • our research and findings on supplement contamination 
  • the Informed Sport certification process

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