Are there any ingredients in sports supplements & protein powders that can produce a non-negative result?

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Answer. Yes. 

Protein Powders Explained.

There are many different types of protein powders but most consist of powdered forms of protein from soy, pea or dairy (whey or casein). These can be with or without carbohydrates and other performance-enhancing ingredients like creatine, ‘fat metabolisers’, vitamins and minerals. The production and sale of sports supplements in Australia is regulated by two government departments (FSANZ & TGA). Furthermore, Olympic Games regulations also list other banned ingredients (such as ephedrine, pseudo-ephedrine, DHEA and other hormones and pro-hormones).

In addition to the high concentration of hydrolysed protein in these supplements, there may be other additions by the manufacturer. These can include vitamins, minerals, greens (dehydrated vegetable or other plant products), additional fats, grains, fibre, and/or thickeners.

It has been proposed that vitamin B2 (riboflavin) may produce a non-negative result for THC (cannabis). So, protein powders and supplements – either stand-alone or when metabolised by the body – could have the potential to contribute to spurious on-site results. All non-negative on-site tests are sent to the laboratory for confirmation. This provides a “chemical signature” of the urine or saliva sample which will eliminate any uncertainty as to false positives from the on-site testing.

The reason(s) are not well known and will be difficult to pin down due to the large variation in these products. This is further complicated by the ready access to supplements from overseas suppliers (e.g. via mail order, Internet sales and personal importation) where there is less regulation of quality, production and marketing.

Many sports supplements have creatine as an ingredient. This is a natural, necessary energy source for the muscles. Creatine is part of the process of producing ATP, or adenosine triphosphate, which is the body’s energy “currency”. ATP is used in everything from sleeping to walking and to intense exercise. High levels of creatine can give an energy lift. After being used it is broken down to creatinine which, with high levels of supplementation, can appear in the urine. This is not a concern in D&A testing, however, as creatinine is a natural process and cannot interfere with other urine indicators.

It is worth stating again that depending on the source, certain sports or herbal supplements may contain illicit substances (such as ecstasy or MDA).

For example, herbal supplements sold overseas, supposedly for weight loss and energy, contain guarana (Paullinia cupana), a natural source of caffeine, and ma huang (Ephedra sinica), a natural source of ephedrine. The amounts present in such products can vary considerably. In people, use of herbal supplements containing guarana and ma huang have been linked to acute hepatitis, nephrolithiasis, hypersensitivity myocarditis, and sudden death.

Also, some supplements which are legal in the UK, EU, Canada and the USA may contain the plant derived stimulant higenamine (or similar plant extracts). Interestingly, higenamine is a banned substance in sports as it can give an amphetamine type response. Body builders should take care when purchasing such products overseas.

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