Regulatory Challenges

Many athletes and consumers are familiar with the strong regulatory system that is in place to monitor medication. Medications go through trials and are monitored and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before they can be sold on the shelves. Additionally medications typically only include one ingredient as required by the FDA. As a result, USADA is able to tell athletes with confidence what medications are prohibited and not prohibited. USADA provides this resource at

Often, the assumption is that dietary supplements go through the same, if not similar, regulations. Think about it. When you walk into a health food or supplement store, do you assume that the items being sold have passed some sort of regulations?

This is simply not true. A dietary supplement is not reviewed pre-market and does not have to be proven safe in order to be sold on the shelves of a store.

The fact is that strict regulation of dietary supplements is not done prior to sale. Under current laws, individual dietary supplement manufacturers, and not an independent agency, are responsible for making sure their own products are safe before they can be sold. While most companies are genuinely concerned with the safety of their products, its easy to see how this system can cause issues. There are really no consequences or repercussions for the companies that do not play by the rules.

As seen in the following pages, this includes illegal and/or dangerous, ingredients, mislabeling, "proprietary blends" of unknown content, and inappropriate doses.

Athletes are accustomed to services, like USADA's Global DRO, which allows for easy access to the status, prohibited or not prohibited, of medication from a computer or smartphone. Dietary supplements however are not subject to the same regulations; which could mean ingredient uncertainty, a leading reason why Global DRO doesn't include these products. Click to access Global DRO.

Why The Laws Don't Protect You