Third-Party Testing Guidance
Many athletes believe they need dietary supplements to perform at their best, but this trust in supplements is undeserved, and it’s important that athletes recognize and reduce their risk if they choose to use supplements. There are often no warning signs that a product is unsafe, and many athletes have suffered health problems or positive drug tests and sanctions from using products that are incorrectly labeled or contaminated with dangerous ingredients, such as anabolic steroids, pharmaceuticals, or research drugs.
If athletes choose to use supplements despite these known risks, USADA has always recommended that athletes use only dietary supplements that have been certified by a third-party program that tests for substances prohibited in sport. Based on a recent consensus statement, USADA now recognizes NSF Certified for Sport® as the program best suited for athletes to reduce the risk from supplements.
What is third-party certification of dietary supplements?
Third-party certification of dietary supplements is when an organization that is not the supplement company itself (hence, the third-party) evaluates a dietary supplement and vouches for its quality. Certification is distinct from third-party testing, as testing of the finished product is only one component of a good third-party certification program. Third-party certification also includes an audit of the manufacturing process, an evaluation of the product’s quality, and an evaluation of labeling to ensure it is accurate and compliant with regulations. There are other important aspects of third-party certification that you can read about on Supplement Connect.
Why is third-party certification of dietary supplements important?
Dietary supplements are regulated in a post-market fashion, which means that no regulatory body approves the accuracy of the label or safety of the contents before they are sold to consumers. For athletes subject to anti-doping rules, it’s important to know if a supplement is high quality and free from prohibited substances BEFORE use. A thorough third-party certification program that tests for performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) is an important risk-reduction step for athletes.
Why is USADA recommending a third-party certification company?
If athletes choose to use supplements despite the risks, USADA has always recommended that athletes use only dietary supplements that have been certified by a third-party program that tests for substances prohibited in sport. This fact remains unchanged.
Now, however, USADA recognizes the NSF Certified for Sport® program as meeting the essential criteria for a third-party certifier set forth in a consensus paper and as a program available to athletes to reduce their risk if they choose to use supplements.
As described in the consensus paper, a program should be accredited to ISO 17065, analytical work should be carried out in a laboratory accredited to 17025 with a scope that includes dietary supplements, the program should certify to the ANSI/NSF 173 Dietary Supplement standard, and the program should have a rigorous program of testing for PEDs.
Why did USADA choose to recommend the NSF Certified for Sport® Program?
USADA, in collaboration with the Uniformed Services University (under the Department of Defense), UFC, Major League Baseball (MLB), and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) put forth a consensus published by the American College for Sports Medicine on the essential criteria of third-party certification programs for drug tested athletes.
In brief, the program must have appropriate accreditations, be free from conflicts of interest, and must conduct testing for substances prohibited in sport. The NSF Certified for Sport® program currently meets the criteria set forth in the consensus statement. USADA recommends that athletes who choose to use supplements despite the risks can reduce this risk by using supplements that are NSF Certified for Sport®.
Click here to learn more about the NSF Certified for Sport® program.