Compared to recent Olympics, London was a win in terms of athletes testing positive for banned substances—especially the controversial stimulant DMAA.
Syrian runner Ghfran Almouhamad was the only one to test positive for methylhexaneamine, one of DMAA’s myriad names. She was also the only athlete whose positive result was linked to a dietary supplement.
This was a big turnaround from recent years, during which DMAA caused more doping violations than any other substance, including steroids and EPO blood booster.
“The Olympics were a positive story and accidental doping was at a minimal compared to years past,” says Ed Wyszumiala, general manager of dietary supplement programs at NSF International. There were just eight busts during the London games—for EPO, steroids, diuretics, and cannabis—compared to 19 in Beijing in 2008 and 26 in Athens in 2004.
“A lot of this is directly associated to the global campaign we have been doing with the anti doping associations and national Olympic committees on the needs of choosing safe supplements and ones that are NSF certified,” says Wyszumiala.
He also gives credit to the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s (USADA) new Supplement 411 website for educating U.S. athletes on supplement issues. Countries like Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom and Australia also sponsored similar efforts. “With these educational campaigns, athletes are making better decisions in what they are using,” Wyszumiala says.
U.S. manufacturers also deserve some credit, says Wyszumiala. “Manufacturing standards are rising, so you have a lower chance for cross-contamination issues, which was a problem we saw a lot a few years ago. Also, manufacturers are starting to do a better job of qualifying their supply chains, which should be supplying them with better quality ingredients.” NSF has seen more and more companies submit products for just an anti-doping screen to spot check products to verify they don’t have an issue, he adds.
According to Anti-Doping Database, 15 additional athletes tested positive for banned substances leading up to the games, which would bring total busts to 23.