Last updated on: 6/12/2009 | Author:

What Are Some Examples of Legal Performance Enhancing Substances that Athletes Are Allowed to Use?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

Peta Bee, MSc, freelance sports and medicine journalist, wrote in an Aug. 16, 2008 article published by The Times website, titled “Is Bicarbonate of Soda a Performance Enhancing Drug?” that:

“Performance-enhancing drugs usually bring to mind designer steroids and human growth hormones. Yet some athletes rely on more rudimentary – and legal – means to boost their race times, including using a substance usually tucked away in a kitchen cupboard.

For years, keen runners have sworn that taking a spoonful of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) helps them to keep going for longer.”

Aug. 16, 2008 - Peta Bee, MSc

Ryan Kohler, MD, Chief Medical Officer for the South African Vodacom Stormers and Western Province Rugby teams, and Shelly Meltzer, RD, Department Head of the Dietetic Practice at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa,, in a December 2006 article titled “Your Guide to Legal Supplements” compiled for offered the following list:

“Here are all the ‘legal’ supplements according to supplement grouping, definition and specific supplements. This group includes supplements and sports foods that provide a performance benefit in sport-specific and individual-specific situations or provide a useful and timely source of energy and nutrients in an athletes diet or are of medical/therapeutic benefit:

Bicarbonate, beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB), creatine, calcium, carbohydrate powders and gels glucosamine and chondroitin, intramuscular iron, intramuscular vitamin B12, liquid meal replacements, melatonin, recovery formulas, sports energy bars, skim milk powder, sports drinks, specific vitamins and minerals.”

Dec. 2006 - Shelly Meltzer, RD Ryan Kohler, MD

Absolute Creatine, LLC, a group of self-proclaimed “fitness nuts,” responded in a 2006 question and answer session posted on their website (accessed on Nov. 5, 2008) regarding the legality of creatine that:

“Creatine is classified as a Dietary Supplement – not a drug. This means that it is basically treated as a food substance and does not have to meet any of the drug requirements of the FDA. You do not need a prescription to buy creatine – because it is a food supplement.

Creatine is not a banned substance in the NFL, NBA, MLB, NFL, NCAA or Olympics. It would be very hard to ban creatine use because it is found in many foods, therefore making it very hard to test for without false positives.”

2006 - Absolute Creatine, LLC.

Young Men’s Health, a website produced by the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Children’s Hospital Boston, published the following information in a Mar. 24, 2008 article titled “Steroids & Supplements: Information About Performance-Enhancing Substances” on its website:

“Ads for legal performance-enhancing substances and dietary supplements are all over the Internet. Many of these so-called ‘legal’ or ‘natural’ substances have not been approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the office of our government that carefully researches the safety of products on the market. Taking a substance that has not been approved by the FDA could put your health at risk… [E]ven natural substances can produce negative side effects, especially when taken in high doses. While some dietary supplements are legal, the long-term effects of those substances may not be clear.”

Mar. 24, 2008 - Young Men's Health

Tom Farrey, sports journalist and senior writer for ESPN The Magazine, wrote in a Mar. 17, 2003 article published by titled “Study Links Popular Sports Supplement to Sterility” that:

“The athlete’s toolbox is taking another hit with a new study suggesting that chromium picolinate, a popular supplement perceived to trim fat and build muscle, could cause sterility in a user’s children and grandchildren… received an advance copy of the 29-page study, which notes that fruit flies given chromium picolinate were more likely to produce female offspring that are sterile…

Chromium picolinate, widely available in stores and over the Internet, is sold in forms that include pills and sports drinks. The substance became popular among bodybuilders and athletes about a decade ago, with sales now exceeding $87 million a year… [C]hromium picolinate is not banned for use by athletes competing in the NCAA or Olympics, among other leagues.”

Mar. 17, 2003 - Tom Farrey

Anna Salleh, PhD, Science journalist for ABC Science Online, wrote the following in an Aug. 2, 2008 article published by her company titled “Athletes’ Caffeine Use Reignites Scientific Debate”:

“In the 1980s and 1990s Olympic athletes were banned for returning positive tests for caffeine… Four years ago, the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) considered it an offence for an athlete to have a urine concentration of caffeine greater than 12 micrograms per millilitre [about 8 cups of coffee]. But a number of concerns led to WADA removing caffeine from its list of banned substances. A spokesperson for WADA says there is research evidence indicating that caffeine actually decreases performance above that threshold. On the other hand, reducing the threshold might create the risk of sanctioning athletes for simply consuming social amounts of caffeine, which is common in drinks and food.”

Aug. 2, 2008 - Anna Salleh, PhD