a1 Doping Control Laboratory, Department of Clinical Biology, Microbiology and Immunology, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ghent University – UGent, Technologiepark 30B, B-9052 Zwijnaarde, Belgium
Based upon recent sales numbers, nutritional supplements play a key role in the lifestyle of a substantial proportion of the population. As well as products such as vitamins or minerals, several precursors of anabolic steroids are marketed as nutritional supplements. Another group of commercially available supplements are products for weight loss based upon herbal formulations originating from Ephedra species. Apart from supplements indicating the presence of these active compounds, numerous non-hormonal nutritional supplements were found that were contaminated with non-labelled anabolic steroids. Stimulating agents other than naturally occurring analogues of ephedrine were detected. A major group using dietary supplements are sportsmen, ranging from amateur level to elite athletes. Besides the possible health risks associated with the use of dietary supplements, athletes should take care not to violate the rules of the World Anti-Doping Agency because athletes remain responsible for substances detected in their biofluids, irrespective of their origin. Several analytical methods have been developed to determine the presence of doping agents as contaminants. The present review attempts to address the issues concerning the use of nutritional supplements and the detection of doping agents as contaminants in dietary supplements.