This is an excerpt from Clinical Pharmacology in Athletic Training by Michelle A. Cleary,Thomas E. Abdenour & Mike Pavlovich.
To help athletes make safe decisions regarding supplement use, it is prudent to access independent testing standards and product certification programs that analyze and credential specific supplements. NSF International first developed standards for the manufacture and packaging of various food equipment. Eventually this program expanded into food and nutritional supplements. In 2004, NSF International established their banned substances certification program. The organization’s certification through the Certified for Sports program consists of comprehensive laboratory testing and analysis of the manufacturing process of a supplement. This program certifies the accuracy of a supplement’s label ingredients and verifies that the product does not contain unsafe levels of contaminants, prohibited substances, or masking agents. This program also screens supplements for a multitude of banned substances, including anabolic steroids, narcotics, stimulants, and masking agents. Products with the NSF certification have met a high standard; in order to be certified, each manufacturer has had the following verified through an NSF audit:29
- Ingredients on the product label are reviewed for accuracy and toxicology.
- Manufacturing facility is scrutinized and ingredients are analyzed.
- Annual laboratory analysis is conducted for banned substances and materials, such as heavy metals and pesticides or herbicides.
The Drug Free Sport AXIS program is an online portal11 available to athletes or administrators through a subscription service. An AT can forward information regarding a specific supplement or drug to the AXIS portal. Within a few days, Drug Free Sport will reply to the AT with information on the presence or absence of banned substances in that supplement. Individual supplement labels are reviewed by Drug Free Sport for the most accurate information; thus, an athlete can use this feedback as a risk assessment to make as informed a decision as possible regarding a specific supplement. Drug Free Sport regularly acknowledges that their information on the medication or supplement tested does not guarantee that it is safe; despite their best efforts, there is always a risk of the presence of an unreported banned substance.
Recommending or Providing Sport Supplements
The NSF International’s Certified for Sport program helps athletes make safer decisions when choosing sport supplements. Several high-level sport governing bodies allow only products that are approved by Certified for Sport to be recommended or provided to the athletes. Products with NSF certification are recognized by several sporting agencies, including the National Football League, Major League Baseball, Professional Golf Association, Ladies Professional Golf Association, and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports. Some manufacturers rely on a Certificate of Analysis (CoA) of a Drug or Formulation document, which provides the exact details relating to the quality control and specifications of the product; these are based on a sample from a specific batch and the material from which it was manufactured.5