Objective: To learn more about the prevalence of dietary supplement and medication use by Canadian athletes in the Olympic Games in Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000.
Setting and participants: Data were collected from personal interviews with Canadian athletes who participated at the 1996 Atlanta and 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. The athletes were interviewed by Canadian physicians regarding the use of vitamins, minerals, nutritional supplements, and prescribed and over-the-counter medications. Of the 271 Canadian athletes who participated at the Atlanta Olympics, 257 athletes were interviewed; at the Sydney Olympics, 300 of 304 Canadian athletes were interviewed.
Main outcome measurement: A quantitative and qualitative description of the use of dietary supplements by Canadian athletes at the Atlanta and Sydney Olympics.
Results: At the Atlanta Games, 69% of the athletes used some form of dietary supplements, whereas 74% of the athletes used dietary supplements at the Sydney Games. Vitamins were taken by 59% of men and 66% of women in Atlanta, and 65% of men and 58% women in Sydney. Mineral supplements were used by 16% of men and 45% of women in Atlanta, and 30% of men and 21% of women in Sydney. Nutritional supplements were used by 35% of men and 43% of women in Atlanta, and 43% of men and 51% of women in Sydney. The most popular vitamins were multivitamins in both Olympics. The most popular mineral supplements were iron supplements. The most commonly used nutritional supplement in Atlanta was creatine (14%), but amino acids (15%) were the most commonly used nutritional supplement in Sydney. In Atlanta, 61% of the athletes were using some form of medication, 54% of the athletes were using medications in Sydney. Nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) were the most commonly used medications at both Olympic Games. Among all sports, the highest prevalence of vitamin use occurred in boxing (91%) in Atlanta and swimming (76%) in Sydney. Rowers (56%) and cyclists (73%) demonstrated the highest use of mineral supplements. Nutritional supplement use occurred most often in swimming (56%) and cycling (100%). The use of NSAIDs was highest in softball (60%) in Atlanta and gymnastics (100%) in Sydney.
Conclusion: This review demonstrates that dietary supplement use was common among Canadian athletes at both the Atlanta and Sydney Olympic Games. There was a slight increase in total dietary supplement use at the Sydney Games. Widespread use of supplements, combined with an absence of evidence of their efficacy and a concern for the possibility of "inadvertent" doping, underscore the need for appropriately focused educational initiatives in this area.