Dietary supplements no excuse for testing positive
“Of the 5,000 tests we took at the Olympics in China there were around ten positive tests,” added the Swede, who is also the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) vice-president. Ljungqvist was speaking in the wake of a warning about supplements last month from Sweden’s Sports Council.
The council has warned elite athletes that such products were best avoided as there was no way of knowing what went into them. “It’s an aggressive and unregulated market,” Ljungqvist said, adding that such supplements were in most cases unnecessary. “If someone is suffering from a deficiency then OK, but it should be diagnosed. There are those who live in bad conditions temporarily. They can possibly supplement a deficient diet, but adding it to a regular normal diet is like flushing money down the toilet,” he said.
Ljungqvist also advised athletes to contact their doctor if they felt they needed supplements, saying it was the only way to be sure they didn’t fall foul of anti-doping legislation. “If you get something on prescription then it’s part of a group of medicines that go through very strict and rigorous controls. If you buy them over the counter there’s not the same kind of rigorous control,” he said.
The former Olympic high jumper said the principle of strict liability would continue to apply to all athletes, not just with regard to supplements but also to regular foodstuffs.
Ljungqvist said everything athletes ingest — including allegedly contaminated food — is their responsibility. “Elite athletes today are educated professionals and, like all other professionals, they have a responsibility to know what is acceptable. The first time I heard of an athlete stating he tested positive because he had eaten contaminated meat was in the beginning of the eighties, so this is an old story.”