Issue 195

February 2022

If it’s natural it can’t make you test positive, right? Maybe not.

Natural anabolic agents may represent a new frontier in muscle-building supplements, but they do things a little differently. Many are researched because they act as myostatin inhibitors, which is one of the newest and least defined categories of prohibited substances in sports. While they appear to comply with dietary supplement regulations, they do create a new dilemma when it comes to the interpretation of what is or is not prohibited in sport, military, or workplace drug testing.

A new muscle-building path

Hardcore muscle-building supplements are evolving away from exploiting gaps and illegitimate ingredients and are heading toward naturally derived ingredients that comply with dietary supplement regulations. These natural anabolic agents are substances present in nature that can be extracted, processed, or concentrated, and are often evaluated for specific muscle-building effects, such as myostatin inhibition.

New face of regulation

Myostatin inhibitors represent one of the newest and least defined categories of prohibited substances in sports. The 202World Anti-Doping Agency Prohibited List includes them under S4 – Hormone and Metabolic Modulators, specifically in S4.3. Myostatin inhibitors are prohibited by many other sporting agencies, but not all. As is often the case with new categories that are added to prohibited substance lists, the effects are prohibited, but very few specific examples are provided.

How natural anabolics work

This new frontier in natural anabolic muscle-building supplements is often concentrated on managing sarcopenia and cachexia, muscle-wasting conditions typically associated with old age or cancer. This expanded focus may heighten consumer demand among an older population. The potential for these products to build muscle has also made them attractive options for competitive athletes and the larger consumer population. After all, building muscle is appealing to everyone. Many plants or naturally derived substances have been explored for their natural anabolic potential as myostatin inhibitors. Using broad language, the 2022 WADA Prohibited List prohibits, “Agents reducing or ablating myostatin expression,” with only five specific examples of substances.

How can you keep yourself clean?

For complete peace of mind, make sure any supplement you use comes with a third-party certification showing it has been tested for banned substances. Third-party testing is entirely voluntary but premium brands embrace the gold standard in third-party testing protocols, look for the Banned Substance Control Group (BSCG) stamp of approval –Certified Drug-Free. The lot number on the bottle should be verified in our database. BSCG offers a complete suite of certification, testing, and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) compliance services to the dietary supplement and natural product industries. GMP are a set of guidelines that creates a consistent and systematic approach for ensuring the quality of products, including dietary supplements and pharmaceutical products. With decades of experience in anti-doping and sports drug testing as a foundation, BSCG offers the Olympic standard in analytical testing to finished product brands, ingredient suppliers, manufacturing facilities, teams, leagues, athletes, and other consumers who want to verify that the quality of products and ingredients meet expectations. Look for the BSCG stamp on premium brands that go the extra mile for product quality offering you the best possible outcomes when making your supplement choices.

Oliver Catlin is president of BSCG a third-party certification and testing provider focused on banned substances, quality control and GMP (good manufacturing practice) compliance offering services to the nutrition and natural product industries.