DUBAI // The sports doping watchdog has warned athletes over widely available nutritional supplements that may contain drugs banned in competition.
The National Anti-Doping Organisation (Nado) said pre-workout drinks and bodybuilding supplements available in nutrition shops across the country could contain substances that could lead to a suspension or permanent exclusion.
"Athletes are responsible for what they eat or drink," said Ahmed Al Hashimi, the chairman of Nado.
"If there's any substance you are doubtful of, don't use it unless you know for sure. If you use it, you are responsible."
The call comes after two swimmers were banned in New Zealand for using an energy drink called Jack3d, which contains the stimulant methylhexaneamine. One of them, Blair Jacobs, said he had not known the supplement contained the substance.
Mr Al Hashimi said that while the substance had not shown up in drug tests in the Emirates, other banned substances had been detected and were readily available over the counter. He declined to elaborate.
His officials carried out 509 random tests last year in a range of sports, from basketball and football to bodybuilding.
The UAE does not have a laboratory accredited by the World Anti Doping Agency (Wada), so the athlete's urine samples were sent to other labs in Europe and Asia.
Very few were positive, he said, although he declined to say how many.
"There's a lot of education about doping these days," he said. "The cases we do have could have been due to negligence, or from prescription drugs from the doctor."
Abdul Aziz Al Muhairi, the secretary general for Nado, said the only cases last year were in competition bodybuilding, where athletes had been taking testosterone-enhancing drugs.
However, dietary supplements have also become a concern. Jack3d has become popular with bodybuilders, and is sold in nutrition shops and pharmacies, and online.
One Dubai-based bodybuilder, who declined to be named, said he had used Jack3d for three days but decided to stop because it contained methylhexaneamine.
"The side effects are not really known and there are both negative and positive reports on this particular stimulant," he said.
"I'm very picky about what I put into my body so I decided that this product wasn't worth the risk."
Methylhexaneamine, also known as 1.3 dimethylamylamine, behaves like a mild amphetamine and is used in several brands of "legal highs" in Europe and Australia.
It was added to Wada's list of banned stimulants in 2009 and a year later the Nigerian athlete Damola Osayemi was stripped of the gold medal she won in the Commonwealth Games' 100m after testing positive for the substance.
However, Jack3d has been rigorously tested for safety, according to Casey Bard, the vice president of its US-based manufacturer, USPlabs.
"It is important to distinguish between safe to use from a health standpoint, and prohibited to use under the varying standards and rules adopted by different sports governing bodies throughout the world," he said.
"From a safety standpoint, all USPlabs products are manufactured to the highest standards of quality, and are safe to use as directed."
What to look out for:
Found in decongestants such as Sudafed and Nurofen Cold and Flu – the latter available in Boots pharmacy. A stimulant prohibited when concentration is found in urine to be above 150 micrograms per ml.
A human growth hormone available in injection form in the drug Norditropin. Prescription-only in some countries, but available over the counter, without a doctor’s letter, at Bin Sina Pharmacy in Dubai Mall.
A stimulant found in pre-workout supplements such as Jack3d and Hemo Rage. Available at Planet Nutrition and Bin Sina Pharmacy in Dubai Mall.
* Martin Croucher