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USADA Banned Substances Testing for Supplements

The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) is a Colorado-based Non-Profit business that regulates and tests banned substances in competitive sports. They play an integral role in assuring that athletes do not use banned substances in professional and Olympic sports.

The USADA is recognized by the United States Congress as the official anti-doping organization for all “Olympic, Paralympic, Pan American and Parapan American sport in the United States.” The USADA is also the official anti-doping testing organization for the Ultimate Fighter Championship (UFC) league.

Highlights

  • USDA is a non-profit, non-governmental organization
  • Recognized by US Congress
  • Official Anti-doping organization for Olympics and UFC
  • Issues formal sanctions to athletes based on test failures
  • Conducted 7700+ tests in 2019
  • Maintains databases of banned substances & sanctioned athletes

Introduction

Professional sports have very rigid outlines regarding what compounds athletes can and can’t consume. Lance Armstrong’s use of EPO and various other compounds is one of the most well-known cases where an athlete was disqualified due to their use of banned substances.

The USADA played an integral role in that entire process, as it has in the process of banned substance testing among thousands of other cases.

The USADA provides services, resources, and guides for professional athletes seeking to ensure compliance with banned substance rules. Not all sports adhere to the same banned substances nor do all countries. Fortunately, the USADA maintains searchable database categorized by nationality.

Banned Substance Testing

In 2019, the USADA conducted 7701 tests across many different professional sports. Among the most-commonly tested were athletes in the following sports:

  • Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)
  • Track & Field
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Weightlifting

Many professional organizations, such as the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), and the United States Golf Association (USGA) maintain their own testing policies and programs separate from USADA testing. USADA testing is heavily utilized where individuals and smaller non-franchised teams are competing.

Sanctioned Athlete List

Any athlete failing a USADA banned substance test has their case memorialized by an entry into the publicly-available USADA sanctions list. Anyone can search for athletes names—or just browse around—and view the following information:

  • Athlete Name
  • Sport
  • Banned Substance Detected and/or Reason Sanctioned
  • Term of Sanction (e.g. two years, lifetime, etc.)
  • Date of Sanction

Dietary Supplement Risks

The USADA also maintains an FAQ section related to dietary supplements and banned substance testing.  From the USADA website—a dire warning:

… you always assume some risk of testing positive for prohibited substances when you use supplements because of how supplements are regulated.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not analyze the safety, efficacy, or label accuracy of supplements before they are sold to consumers, which means that no one, including USADA, can look at a supplement label and tell you whether a product is safe and free from banned substances.

Additionally, it is well documented that some dietary supplements have been contaminated or spiked with performance-enhancing drugs, active pharmaceuticals, or research compounds.

This warning echoes the FDA’s own statements that their regulation of dietary supplements differs significantly from food and drug regulations. The FDA’s primary regulatory concern for supplements is in the restriction of health claims and not product safety and labeling accuracy.

Things like steroids, erythropoietin (EPO), and testosterone are obvious no-no’s but many other not-so-obvious compounds could be grounds for disqualification as well. For example, the following compounds are all on various USADA banned substances lists:

  • Octopamine: Contained in Bitter Orange
  • Ephedra: Produced by many natural plants such as Cannabis sativa
  • Higenamine: Found in plants such as Wolf’s Bane

These compounds are common in many herbal and pre-workout supplements. Even trace amounts of these compounds could cause a positive result on an anti-doping test. A hallmark of the highest-quality dietary supplement brands is the NSF Certified for Sport mark.

History

The USADA was created in late 2000 and has since become one of the most internationally-recognized independent anti-doping organizations. Their creation followed an effort of the United States Olympic and Paralympic (USOPC) committee to externalize testing to trusted third parties.

USADA is a signatory on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) official anti-doping code. This international guideline helps pool the latest science and competitive sports knowledge from around the world to provide a more unified set of guidelines for professional athletes.

The WADA recognition helps reduce the chances that athletes from one country might not be able to compete in another’s competitions because of differences in banned substance policies.

Throughout their history, USADA has collected and analyzed over 100,000 unique testing samples from athletes around the world. They’ve received as much as $12 million in funding from various sources, employee over 100 people internationally, and maintain their course for being the authoritative third-party for anti-doping testing.

Review

USADA isn’t well-known outside the world of professional and Olympic sports. Nonetheless, their standards and testing practices are regarded as the Gold-Standard for modern anti-doping testing in professional sports. The US Congress recognizes them as well as the UFC. They are an ideal source for learning more about anything related to banned-substance testing in professional sports.

Contact Information

USADA maintains dedicated departments for questions and comments related to media, anti-doping policies, therapeutic exemptions, and educational resources. Such specific questions should be passed along through the related forms on their website. For general questions and/or comments the contact details below should work just fine.

Phone (toll-free): (866) 601-2632

Email: usada@usada.org

Website: https://www.usada.org/