The threat of supplements for athletes in New Zealand

Buff guy in gym drinking a protein shake

Supplements include pre-workouts, protein powders, vitamins, herbal remedies and products that claim to assist weight loss, to develop muscular strength or size, and to provide energy. They continue to be a serious issue for New Zealand athletes for many reasons.

Supplement contamination

The supplement industry is not regulated. Poor quality control may mean that supplement labels may not accurately list all the ingredients used within the product. This means that supplements can contain prohibited substances – they may be on the label, listed under an alternative name, or not listed at all.

In the past few years a number of athletes have tested positive to prohibited substances believed to have been ingested through supplements. Each of those athletes faced a ban from all sport of up to four years.

As an athlete you are solely responsible for every substance in your body. Before using any supplement, it’s important that you and your support team understand the risks involved.

We cannot approve the use of any supplement product. It is your responsibility to be aware of what you are taking and whether it contains prohibited substances. 

Considering a supplement?

Use the Supplement Decision-Making Guide

Consider the risks

What you need to understand

If you’re considering taking any kind of supplements, we recommend you understand the following first:

  • Make the effort to understand your nutritional needs and try to meet these through kai first.
  • Seek expert advice and tell them you are an athlete who could be tested anytime.
  • Supplement labels don’t always say exactly what is in a product or how much. Words like 'herbal' and 'natural' don't necessarily mean a product is safe.
  • Using incorrect doses, or thinking more is better, is dangerous for your health.
  • Supplement safety and effectiveness is rarely proven in athletes under 18, those with medical conditions or who use other substances.
  • If tested, remember to list all substances you have used on your paperwork.
  • Athletes use all supplements at their own risk.

Making informed decisions

Use the Guide

Before making a decision to use a supplement and to understand the risks involved, use our Supplement Decision-Making Guide.

Take a food-first approach

At Drug Free Sport New Zealand, we advocate for a food-first approach to nutrition. A planned and balanced diet can usually meet all of a competitive athlete’s nutritional needs. There is little evidence indicating that supplements are needed to complement a healthy diet, and they can pose a threat to both the health and career of athletes.

Increase your knowledge

Our e-learning courses, in-person workshops and online webinars are an opportunity to learn more about supplements, among other things. Our education offerings are free and suitable for people of all ages and at all levels in sport.

Explore education options.

An athlete's perspective

Kiwi Ferns Georgia Hale and Madison Bartlett discuss their approaches to supplements

Useful links