Prevention of doping in (elite) sport

Cologne List® is an initiative from the field of sport, listing nutritional supplements that present a minimized risk of contamination from banned substances.

The market of nutritional supplements is very dynamic and heterogeneous. Supplements may be accidentally contaminated during the production process or intentionally mixed with prohibited substances by the manufacturer. Although only a relatively small number of products are actually contaminated (see 2004 IOC study), they present a serious risk to athletes and may even discredit the entire nutritional supplement industry.

Cologne List®, therefore, provides athletes and manufacturers with an independent service platform providing transparent information in the interest of both parties.

The creation of Cologne List®

An international IOC sponsored study conducted by the Institute of Biochemistry of the German Sport University Cologne in 2004 found that about 15 percent of nutritional supplements acquired in 13 different countries contained anabolic agents that were not declared on the label. The anabolic substances found in 2004 were probably contaminations that did not have any real performance-enhancing effects but could have inadvertently resulted in positive anti-doping tests. The outcome startled both the sporting community as well as the nutritional supplement industry. As a result, individual companies contacted the Center for Preventive Doping Research (CePreDo) at the German Sport University Cologne and had their products tested for anabolic steroids and stimulants. The purpose was mainly to review standard internal production procedures and assess raw material suppliers.

The decision was quickly taken to make analysis results accessible to both manufacturers and athletes in order to reduce any uncertainty. Thus, a reliable orientation platform with an independent quality seal for responsible manufacturers and athletes was born: Cologne List®.

The Olympic Training Center Rhineland (Olympiastützpunkt Rheinland, OSP) was behind the creation of Cologne List®, as OSP Director Michael Scharf saw such a service as being part of the center's duty of care to athletes. First published in 2006 listing 25 products, Cologne List® became the world's first approach to solving the problem of contamination in nutritional supplements.

The development of Cologne List®

The Cologne List®was well received by both athletes and manufacturers. In 2008, the number of listed products rose to 150. An ever growing demand from foreign athletes and associations lead to the implementation of an English version of Cologne List® in the same year.

In 2010, Cologne List® introduced voluntary tests for relevant stimulants to complete the mandatory tests for anabolic steroids. The reason behind that was an increase in the presence of undeclared stimulants in nutritional supplements. A total of 270 products were published on Cologne List® in 2010.

The issue of undeclared prohibited stimulants in nutritional supplements came to the attention of the wider public when the German biathlete Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle was expelled by her team after being tested positive for an undeclared banned stimulant during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in 2014. Collaboration with the prevention department of the National Anti-Doping Agency Germany (NADA) was intensified as a result. NADA integrated Cologne List® into its service app (NADA-APP IOS / NADA-APP Android) and its prevention program GEMEINSAM GEGEN DOPING. The number of products published on Cologne List® rose to 570 by the end of 2014.

Collaboration with the NADA Prevention Department intensified and measures to improve safety for athletes - especially for NADA testing pool athletes - were integrated with the relaunch of Cologne List® in 2017. Approximately 950 products are currently published on the Cologne List® along with the corresponding laboratory analysis results.

Situation and outlook

Cologne List® remains the first and biggest doping prevention platform for nutritional supplements in the world in 2017. Service offerings for testing pool athletes are gradually being extended with specialist support from NADA Prevention Department. This will help reduce unintentional doping incidents and possible health risks in the interests of everyone involved.

Recreational athletes now also increasingly seek advice from Cologne List®. Their conviction that manufacturers who produce clean nutritional supplements free of banned substances will consequently be thorough and conscientious in other fields as well, has a positive effect on health awareness. This development is also reflected in the growing number of initiatives launched by fitness chains and organizers of endurance sports events.

As a program instigated by the sporting community for the promotion of clean sport, our belief in voluntary action and transparency for athletes and companies perfectly prepares us for this next step.