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IOC Nutritional Supplements Study
Points to Need for Greater Quality Control

Official International Olympic Committee
Press Release, 04 April 2002

Based on the results of a study of 634 nutritional supplements, the Medical Commission of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) today reissued its warning to athletes against their use and strengthened its call for industry and government action to ensure their quality.

Out of the 634 samples tested, 94 (14.8%) contained substances, non listed on any label, that would have led to a positive doping test. Out of these 94 samples, 23 contained precursors (building blocks) of both nandrolone and testosterone, 64 contained precursors of testosterone alone and 7 contained precursors of nandrolone alone.

In addition to these 94 samples, 66 others (10.4%) returned borderline results for various unlabeled substances.

The 634 non-hormonal nutritional supplements were gathered from 215 different providers in 13 countries from October 2000 to November 2001. Ninety-one percent of them were purchased in stores or over the Internet. The others were obtained from the manufacturers. The IOC-accredited laboratory in Cologne, Germany, tested all supplements.

The results of the analysis by country follows:

Country Number of products Number "positive" Percentage "positive"
Netherlands 31 8 25.8%
Austria 22 5 22.7%
UK 37 7 18.9%
USA 240 45 18.8%
Italy 35 5 14.3%
Spain 29 4 13.8%
Germany 129 15 11.6%
Belgium 30 2 6.7%
France 30 2 6.7%
Norway 30 1 3.3%
Switzerland 13 - -
Sweden 6 - -
Hungary 2 - -
Total 634 94 14.8%


Under the Olympic Movement's rule of strict liability, athletes are responsible for whatever substance is found in their bodies.

The IOC Medical Commission has been warning against the potential risks linked to the use of nutritional supplements since 1997. The lack of oversight existing in some countries has prompted the IOC to intervene and to recommend to athletes not to take such products.

While the IOC has issued its warnings to elite athletes and their entourages, especially due to their liability under doping control tests, the fact that the public is unknowingly ingesting the precursors to hormones should be a matter of public health concern.

The IOC hopes the results of this study demonstrate to governments and the industry the need for greater quality control to ensure substances not found on the label are not found in the product. The IOC Medical Commission recommends controls, similar to those pertaining to the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, be applied to the production of nutritional supplements.

The IOC also will recommend to National Olympic Committees (NOCs), International Federations (IFs) and Organizing Committees (OCOGs) that they adopt a cautious stance toward forming relationships with companies that produce nutritional supplements of which the quality cannot be guaranteed.

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This article was posted on September 13, 2002.