The use of supplements and sports foods by Australian athletes involves a balance between potential benefits (for example, contribution to an evidence-based sports nutrition program) and potential risks (for example, waste of resources, distraction, poor role modelling, anti-doping rule violations). Events in 2013 demonstrated that poor practice with supplements can lead to substantial problems; as a result, Australian sporting organisations have been called upon to implement clear guidelines for athletes so their use of supplements and sports foods is safe, effective and legal.
The AIS Sports Supplement Framework (‘the Framework’) is a leadership initiative of the AIS. It provides the expertise and resources developed during the implementation of the AIS Sports Supplement Program (2000-13) for Australia’s Winning Edge, allowing Australian sporting organisations and agencies to develop their own sports supplement programs and guidelines.
The AIS Sports Supplement panel provides oversight of the Framework and reports directly to the Australian Sports Commission. The Framework was developed following consultation with key stakeholders in the Australian sports system, particularly via the 2013 AIS Sports Supplement Summit. Australian sporting organisations are invited to use the components of this Framework and integrate its elements of provision, education, research and governance into their own sports supplement programs and guidelines.
The specific components of the Framework include the following:
- The ABCD classification system. This provides a simple education tool to rank sports foods and supplement ingredients according to the scientific evidence — allowing them to safely and practically contribute to an athlete’s performance goals
- An open-access website for public education on supplements and sports foods that provides a simplified version of the Framework.
- Fact sheets and research summaries on individual sports foods and supplement ingredients, particularly for products within the A and B categories. There is an opportunity for enhanced versions of these resources to be provided to Australian sporting organisations for restricted access use by members within their sports supplement programs
- Proactive research programs to continue to evolve best practice protocols for the use of supplements and sports foods within the A and B categories
- Facilitation of third-party auditing programs for supplements and sports foods used or provided to Australian athletes as part of their sports supplement programs. These will minimise the risk of anti-doping rule violations.
- Access to the AIS Sports Supplement panel to provide feedback or audit the development of sports supplement programs and guidelines.
Overview — AIS Sports Supplement Framework
ABCD Classification system
The ABCD Classification system ranks sports foods and supplement ingredients into four groups based on scientific evidence and other practical considerations that determine whether a product is safe, legal and effective in improving sports performance.
The classification is made via the consensus of an expert group (to be expanded in membership and function as a Tiger team activity) and can evolve based on new knowledge and practical issues.
General guidelines are provided for appropriate levels of provision/use of products for each group and sub-group within a sporting organisation or agency’s supplement program.
Fact sheets and research summaries are provided on many individual sports foods and supplement ingredients (particularly for products from Groups A and B) to allow sports to develop their own best practice protocols of use in their sports supplement programs.
Following the completion of the AIS Sports Supplement Program (‘the Program’), the following resources have been updated and transferred into the Framework:
AIS Sports Supplement Framework website
The section of the Australian Sports Commission website hosted by AIS Sports Nutrition will be re-launched, with a section on supplements to host publicly available resources on the Framework. The key goals of the website are to:
- provide the public with a clear, consistent and simple message regarding supplement use within the Australian sports system
- provide a common password-protected entry point for members of Australian sports organisations and agencies to access special resources related to their sports supplement programs.
The following resources will be provided on the website:
- Brief history on the Program and its evolution from one implemented within the AIS sports program environment to a leadership initiative that informs and assists national sporting organisations and other sporting organisations/agencies when developing their own sport supplement programs.
- A simplified version of the ABCD Classification system, with simplified education resources including:
- A to Z of fact sheets and research summaries on supplements and sports foods of interest
- other fact sheets on issues of supplements and sports food use
- policies on matters of supplement and sports food use within Winning Edge environment
- Logos to acknowledge Australian sports organisations/agencies that are aligned with the Framework.
- A portal to the Clearinghouse for Sport, with access to member resources (see below).
Clearinghouse for Sport resources for the AIS Sports Supplement Framework
The key goals of the Framework section on the Clearinghouse for Sport website are to:
- host the special/upgraded resources of the Framework for its members and assist the implementation of specific sports’ supplement programs
- promote communication between key players in the Australian sporting system and the various sport supplement programs to encourage evolution of best practice in the use of supplement and sports products
- facilitate the activities of the Tiger teams of the Framework and make the outputs available to members.
Membership will be open to:
- people nominated by Australian sporting organisations/agencies whose sport supplement programs are aligned with the Framework and who need access to these resources to contribute to the Framework’s ongoing activities or to implement their programs
- people nominated by the AIS Sports Supplement panel or management team who need access to these resources to contribute to the Framework’s ongoing activities.
The membership resources will include separate versions of the resources provided on the public supplement website, with additional information providing:
- specialised knowledge regarding best practice protocols for supplement and sports food use that the AIS wishes to keep within the Winning Edge or Australian sporting system
- details regarding the access, provision and/or use of supplements and sports foods within the Winning Edge system or a specific sport’s supplement program that is only relevant to the specific Australian sporting organisation/agency.
The present resources include:
- member version of the ABCD Classification system, where additional products (particularly in Group B) will be listed
- member fact sheets on Group A and Group B supplements
- member research summaries for Group B supplements and Group A performance supplements
- policies on use of supplements and sports foods within the Winning Edge system or a specific sporting organisation or agency’s supplement program
Following the 2014 activities by the Framework’s Tiger teams, the AIS anticipate additional resources will be added for members, including:
- resources to assist the monitoring of the use of Group B products (for example, tools for research and clinical case management activities)
- specific sub-websites where an individual sport’s supplement program resources can be housed, including individualised versions of the Framework fact sheets.
The AIS has a proactive research program focusing on event-specific uses of Group A and Group B products. It will continue to provide this role and to facilitate a collaborative approach to such research within the AIS sports system and university sector. The Clearinghouse for Sport will continue to be used to communicate research opportunities and outcomes.
Facilitation of third-party auditing into Australia
The AIS Sports Supplement panel is currently working to facilitate the implementation of third-party auditing programs within Australia to reduce the risk that contamination of supplements used by Australian athletes will lead to an anti-doping rule violation. Activities will include:
- supporting the LGC company to set up programs such as ‘Informed Choice’ and ‘Informed Sport’ in the Australian sporting environment
- identifying the products that are high priority for auditing and communicating support for brands/products that have been appropriately audited.
Coordinated working teams
The expertise of various AIS personnel has been harnessed into a coordinated model to develop and provide oversight of the Framework. These teams will also assist Australian sporting organisations/agencies to develop their own individual supplement programs.