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TORQ products and banned substances

Are TORQ nutritional products free from substances that could cause an athlete to test positive for illegal performance-enhancing drugs? It would be nice to think so wouldn’t it?

Last year a fracas developed when certain sports supplements were independently tested and found to contain substances that could cause an athlete consuming them to test positive in a dope test. Some of these products were manufactured by big brands and naturally the media, governing bodies for sport and serious athletes started to question whether ‘any’ sports supplement was safe.

So, how could these supplements get contaminated?

This is an interesting question with an equally intriguing answer. Firstly, some of these products may have been contaminated during packaging, due to substances banned by the WADF (World Anti Doping Federation) being present in the packaging plant/factory - in a similar way to nuts contaminating foods that shouldn’t actually contain them (we state that TORQ bars may contain traces of nut, because nuts are handled on the premises and there is a small chance that traces of nut could get into the food). In the case of WADF banned contaminants, it may be that whilst a rogue substance is not a listed ingredient on a supplement, it could contaminate a product if handled on the premises. It may also be that an ingredient used in the product that was supplied by a third party was contaminated? The later is perhaps unlikely, yet still cannot be ruled out as a possible source of contamination.

We can confirm that we do not handle any illegal banned substance (as defined by the WADF) on our factory premises. For full details of the WADF banned substances list, CLICK HERE to view this PDF.

Secondly, many products do contain substances called ‘Pro-Hormones’, which are legal to buy over the counter, yet could easily cause the athlete taking them to test positive in a dope test. A pro-hormone is any steroid-like substance that remotely resembles testosterone and might serve as a building block for testosterone. They also refer to any steroid-like substance that might exert an anabolic and/or androgenic action similar to testosterone or one of its synthetic derivatives. Anabolic means ‘muscle building’ and androgenic refers to the ‘enhancement of secondary male sex characteristics’, such as increased facial hair, square jaw etc. The perfectly legal over the counter 19-nor pro-hormones like 19-norandrostenedione and 19-norandrostenediol can actually become nandrolone once in the athlete’s system. This means that an athlete taking a supplement containing these pro-hormones could test positive for nandrolone. Therefore, it is vital that you establish from the manufacturer of the product you are buying, firstly whether it contains any of these pro-hormones and secondly whether other products packaged on the same premises contain pro-hormones.

Suffice to say, TORQ do not use pro-hormones as an ingredient in any of their products, nor are they handled on the factory premises.

What quality standards does TORQ adhere to?

TORQ products were developed in partnership with a specialist British food company and are manufactured in a facility which has BRC Global Standard Certification at the higher level. BRC is a quality standard, which was developed by the British supermarkets but is now used worldwide. Any manufacturer who wants to supply a top British supermarket on their own label must have this standard. BRC all but removes liability for food before a product reaches the supermarket because the standard is so strict and companies with BRC are independently audited on an annual basis.

During the audit the company must prove compliance to every single one of hundreds of audit points in the 51-page standard. For example, all of the paperwork from documented approval of every supplier for every ingredient in every product through the full forward and backward traceability of every ingredient and every product it went into is subject to scrutiny.

Many companies have gone into the supplement manufacture with little idea of the rigour required of a modern food business, having neither the knowledge or experience of the procedures required to properly control their manufacturing or purchasing functions or to audit their suppliers.

What we can confidently say is that TORQ products are verifiably manufactured and independently audited to the highest standard currently in place in the UK. All supplements used are of pharmaceutical grade and like all of the ingredients used in TORQ products, are sourced only from approved suppliers as part of a supplier quality assurance program.

Having said this, we believe that it would be prohibitively expensive to guarantee any claims about the absence of banned substances in our products. To do so meaningfully, a suite of tests would need to be performed on every batch of every product made. If a claim cannot be verified it is not only worthless, it is illegal in food law. Therefore, it is highly advisable to question any company that offers you a solid guarantee that their products are ‘drug-free’. By ‘prohibitively expensive’ we are talking about a single TORQ energy bar costing around the £7 mark if we were to apply all the relevant tests!! If you are buying energy bars for less than this price, it is highly unlikely that a guarantee can be verified. The same goes for any other sports supplement. Expect to pay extremely high prices and demand that the company supplying them fully justifies their guarantee.

For an ingredient supplier to guarantee that their supply is ‘drug free’, it would require exactly the same rigorous testing process, again adding a hefty cost premium to the finished product. As mentioned earlier, the possibilities of simple ingredient from a properly audited supplier becoming contaminated is incredibly low, but because it is a possibility, no guarantees can or should be given unless they can be verified.

So, if you were to consume a TORQ product, how likely is it that you’d subsequently test positive in an IOC regulated dope test?

The answer is simple. There is a similar likelihood of testing positive after eating straightforward regular food. If you shop at a supermarket and buy normal food, do you consider the possibility that your breakfast cereal may be contaminated with illegal doping substances? All foods on the supermarket shelves are BDC certified and it is highly unlikely that any of them will guarantee that their products do not contain banned substances. It is equally highly unlikely that any of them DO contain banned substances.

In summary

In summary, if you are a serious athlete and are concerned that a product you are about to buy could cause you to test positive in a dope test, contact the manufacturer and ask the following questions:

1) Does their product contain as an ingredient any pro-hormone type substances or any additive that could cause a positive dope test?

2) Does their factory handle pro-hormones or any of the substances listed on the WADF banned substances list.

3) Does their factory hold BRC Global Standard Certification?

4) If they are offering a ‘drug free guarantee’, ask them to verify this and question their validation methods?

Here at TORQ we give you our assurance of best practice and if you are an athlete who takes his/her sport seriously, we hope this information has been of use to you. Please buy TORQ products with confidence.

For further information on doping issues, visit the WADF website

For a downloadable pdf listing the current banned substances (as of March 2004), CLICK HERE