Coaching Association of Canada

Leading Drug-free Sport: 3 Considerations for Assessing Dietary Supplement Claims

Supplement companies use many marketing strategies to convince athletes that their product fulfills an actual need better than conventional methods. In some cases, undeclared substances found in a product can be prohibited under anti-doping regulations. Advising your athletes on how to best interpret the claims made by dietary supplement companies can go a long way. 

Let’s examine three considerations to help you assess dietary supplement claims.

  • 1. Believability of Claims

    Many companies often make claims about their products that seem too good to resist. Be skeptical of:

    • Any product that claims to be effective in a wide range of conditions, such as both sprint, and endurance events;
    • General statements such as improving health, increasing energy, rejuvenating or cleansing the body, when they are not supported by clear explanations as to how or why;
    • Language that make claims seem overstated, including being “all natural”, holistic, exclusive, miraculous, or “in accordance with an ancient formula”; and
    • Any product that promises quick and effortless results.

    Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

  • 2. Legitimacy of Claims

    Marketers often try to legitimize their claims by including results from scientific research in their advertisements. If the scientific results can only be found on the product Web site or publication, chances are they are unfounded. You should also be suspicious of companies that claim to have quality assurance programs which meet WADA standards, or that their products are approved by WADA or were tested in WADA-accredited laboratories. These claims are false. Laboratories are accredited by WADA solely to conduct doping control analyses, not to test products for prohibited substances.

  • 3. Transparency of Claims

    What are they not telling you? It is important to know the possible side effects of taking dietary supplements. Be wary of a product that does not include any mention of side effects in its advertisement and don’t forget to read the fine print. It is also not recommended to conduct business with companies unless they reveal their name, address, and phone number. Lastly, be cautious when products are available only through the mail, at special outlets, or for a limited time.

While they are a start, it is important to note that these three considerations are not a foolproof method for choosing dietary supplements. Ultimately, athletes are responsible for everything that they put into their bodies. Coaches and athletes should always contact their National Anti-Doping Organization or their sport governing body to obtain more information about dietary supplement use, and always err on the side of caution.

Want more information on resistance training? The Leading Drug-free Sport module, part of the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) Multi-sport module series for coaches, will provide you with additional knowledge! Contact your Provincial or Territorial Coaching Representative for more details!