Nutritional Supplements

Athletes Bear Full Responsibility

Nutritional supplements present a doping risk as they may be contaminated with prohibited substances.

Athletes bear full responsibility for samples reporting a positive test due to prohibited substances contained in nutritional supplements they have taken. A reduction of the sanctions is only possible, if the athletes can prove that they have taken all precautionary measures to reduce the associated doping risk.

This risk can never be ruled out completely. Athletes should therefore only use nutritional supplements following an individual assessment of the benefits and risks. The basic principles are:

  • Healthy basic diet
  • Need must be clarified by a specialist
  • Take account of exclusion criteria and tips for reducing risk

Nutrition in Sport

Athletic performance is rooted in a healthy basic diet. It may make sense to adapt calorie levels depending on the sport, or to select specific foods to ensure an optimum supply of energy and nutrients.

Food pyramid for sport

Nutritional supplements can complement basic nutrition in order to aid individual and sport-specific needs, but should never be used as a substitute for a healthy basic diet. The use of nutritional supplements should be determined by a specialist and considered only where really necessary.


The supplement guide issued by the Swiss Sports Nutrition Society SSNS provides information on nutritional supplements and divides them into categories. Under category A, it lists supplements, which might be appropriate in certain situations.

SNSS Supplement Guide

If you have any questions concerning sports nutrition, do not hesitate to contact SSNS: contact(a)

Doping Risk

Nutritional supplements may contain prohibited substances, which are not declared as ingredients on the packaging. It can be assumed that 5 to 20% of products worldwide are contaminated with substances prohibited according to the Prohibited List (Vernec et al., 2013). Contamination may occur, for example, in contaminated production facilities, or prohibited substances may be added deliberately to increase the effect of the product. There have been several cases in the past in which athletes were suspended from sport because of supplements contaminated with prohibited substances. Prohibited substances have already been found to be contained in the following product groups:

  • Muscle growth products such as protein powder (contaminated with anabolic steroids)
  • Fat Burners (stimulants)
  • Neuro Enhancers (stimulants)

Reducing Risk

The only way to avoid the risk of contaminated nutritional supplements completely is to avoid using these products. Unlike medication, Swissmedic does not approve nutritional supplements. Swiss Sport Integrity would therefore never classify any nutritional supplement as risk-free or safe.

Athletes can reduce their doping risk by taking the following precautions:

Basic Measures

If the use of a nutritional supplement is recommended by a specialist:

  • Favor the use of products of reliable Swiss manufacturers.
  • Select products, which are intended for competitive sport.
  • Do not purchase from unknown manufacturers and do not order from abroad.

Exclusion Criteria – for Safety Reasons, Do Not Take the Following Products!

  • Products intended for the fitness or bodybuilding market.
  • Products which make big claims: the greater the promised effect, the greater the risk.
  • Products which use terms such as testo, anabo, or boost.
  • Products which claim to be doping-free, for example, «guaranteed doping-free», «100% doping-free», «WADA approved», etc.

Certification Programs

Manufacturers can have their nutritional supplements tested for contamination with prohibited substances. Products listed on the websites of the following certification programs have been analyzed in accordance with their guidelines and testing programs. This is the best way of reducing the doping risk, although it does not eliminate it entirely. We are aware of the following reliable certification programs:

Cologne List

NSF Sport

Informed Sport

Health Risks

In addition to any possible contamination with prohibited substances, other contaminants (e.g. heavy metals or microbial load) may also be present. Health risks may also occur as a result of high dosages of nutritional supplements. The athlete’s personal needs should therefore be clarified with an independent specialist, and this advice then followed.

Doping Mentality

According to various studies, the regular and habitual use of nutritional supplements can lead to a doping mentality (Backhouse et al., 2013). For example, a subconscious psychological dependence on energy drinks can emerge if such a drink is consumed before each training session. The frequent consumption of nutritional supplements has been linked to a higher probability of the deliberate use of prohibited substances or methods further down the line.

Support and Contact

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.