With squeezes on supply chains around the world and ingredient costs on the rise, there’s a warning that raw materials could be putting sports supplement products at risk for contamination.


As many as 10% of sports supplements can be contaminated with ingredients and compounds that are prohibited in sport. So athletes and drug-tested personnel need to be able to ensure that the manufacturers of the products they buy or use take the risk of contamination as seriously as they do.

LGC Assure offers a world-class service to ensure the availability of certified products that are comprehensively tested for banned substances before being released to market.


World-class testing and anti-doping laboratories

Established in 2008, Informed Sport is our global testing and certification programme for sports and nutritional supplements. Supplement products are tested by LGC’s world-class anti-doping laboratories in the UK and the US for contamination against a broad range of banned substances in sport, using ISO 17025 accredited methods. To date, Informed Sport has certified over 3,000 unique products sold in over 127 countries globally.

Once certification of a product is awarded, we continue to blind test samples to safeguard against banned substances. This process has been developed over 55 years of expertise in anti-doping in sport to provide suppliers and athletes absolute confidence in the programme.


Supply shortages force use of alternatives

The sports supplement industry has faced numerous effects from the COVID-19 global pandemic, but none have been greater than the impact on the global supply chain. Ingredient shortages, transportation bottlenecks and production disruptions continue to plague manufacturers and brands alike.

As a result of ingredient shortages, prices for these materials continue to climb, forcing many manufacturers to search for alternative sources. Such supply chain issues potentially open the door for suppliers to sell sub-standard ingredients to brands and manufacturers – ingredients that hold the potential to be adulterated or contaminated with substances that present a doping or health risk.

LGC’s testing has shown that raw materials are often a leading cause of inadvertent contamination for both manufacturing equipment and finished supplement products. If a contamination issue is discovered, we work with the companies involved to identify the underlying cause of contamination and offer appropriate solutions.


An incident of inadvertent contamination

A good case study comes from a brand that was looking to certify a product with Informed Sport. The company had been using a new manufacturing facility and the registration samples it provided tested positive for high levels of methylhexanamine, a banned stimulant. So we began to investigate, working with both the brand and the manufacturer.

Our audit process indicated the manufacturing facility had never handled banned substances, especially methylhexanamine, and the product contained no stimulants. So our investigators focused their attention on the raw materials and tested each lot of each ingredient used in the product.

Not surprisingly, they determined that a raw material was the culprit. What was surprising was that it wasn’t one of the active ingredients, but microcrystalline cellulose – an excipient used to help the bulk material more easily run through its equipment.

The investigation determined that the raw material came from China and was manufactured in a facility with inferior control procedures. The production batch was destroyed, and the manufacturer learned an expensive lesson in the importance of better auditing its own supply chain and ingredient suppliers.


Why risk the reputational damage?

Despite the continuing supply chain challenges, it’s essential for sports supplement brands to maintain a high level of quality assurance. Any ingredients or raw material can contain hidden banned compounds or can become contaminated during the manufacturing process. The fact that not all countries have the same quality assurance standards further increases the risks of contamination.

Today many reputable supplement brands use third-party testing to offer an extra level of product quality assurance – and help protect their brand reputation.


Find out more about Informed Sport certification programmes



This article was originally featured in the BRCGS Executive Update. This new quarterly email update is designed to provide leaders in the food and drink industry with up-to-date content on the trends shaping the future of the industry. We aim to connect you to opportunities to future proof your organisation, while raising revenues and staying ahead of regulation. Subscribe to see the full update and be the first to receive future update emails straight to your inbox.


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