The Athlete

Sports Supplements

1 in 5: Worth the Gamble?

The many Sports Councils, in presenting their reports make one message very clear. The days of taking supplements, alleged to boost performance, are well and truly over. This is the end of the association between so-called "health" supplements and sporting performance. Gone are the bucket-chemistry produced plant extracts, boiled up herbal soups and ridiculous latin phrases designed to confuse as well as to give the impression that there is something legal or acceptable about the products.

So too are the more familiar supplements like Creatine, Muscle maximisers, "natural" anabolics, stimulants or haematinics on the list of substances advised against, because to put it simply in the Terms of Dr Conor O'Brien "taking supplements will lead to 1 in 5 athletes testing positive for a banned substance"

A powerful, evocative comment was delivered by John Treacy, who stated that it is up to all of us, not just Ireland, not just the ISC, but every athlete, coach, adviser, and most of all every participating Country to sign up to the new World anti-doping convention, and to apply it and its sanctions with vigour. Athletes and their organizations are going to need education and advice to confront any fears or reservations they may have about medicines they may have to take, but there is little to fear, as the information is out there, and the key word is "Medicine".

If a product does not have a legal Product License (called a PA in Ireland, PL in the UK/NI) it cannot easily be verified as "permitted" in sport.

Nevertheless, there are pitfalls, and athletes need not be afraid, but very aware. Only yesterday a high profile Premiership footballer who stood accused of associating with a known drug-dealer and general "cowboy" explained his actions by stating he had consumed "quite a lot of alcohol, including vodka and Red Bull" on the night in question.Did no one spending the millions on this and other players think of informing him that drinking even a seemingly small amount of high-caffeine drinks like Red Bull could lead to a positive dope test the next day?

Stupidity, ignorance, or lack of education could well lead to a lot of very unfortunate positive tests, but with the new rules, quite correctly, ignorance will not be accepted as an excuse.

In today's (Thursday April3rd) Irish Times Johnny Watterson states that the new "drugs in sport" labeled MIMs contains references to "every known drug in Ireland". This is well off the mark, as we live in a particularly difficult region to advise. The reason is that many drugs are not listed in this publication due to their being too new, too old, or Generic versions of a drug entity that have not been listed. In addition the list, and even the ingredients of the same products varies from Northern Ireland to the Republic. Only today we talked to the IRFU who stated that the computer list they use check drugs up on deals almost exclusively with OTC (over the counter) products, and even then, only in Ireland. Thankfully, this is not entirely true, as attempts the massive task of listing all UK and Irish medicines. (Many of our sporting bodies encompass all 32 counties).

The days are truly numbered for supplements, but this will not stop athletes getting conned into their use, and most worryingly, it is the youth who are most at risk, mainly because of their ability to find supplements, sales and supply on-line.

Only yesterday we had three queries from Irish schoolboy athletes who are already taking Creatine, now wondering is it banned. The only answer is "quite possibly: 1 to 5 against".

It is one thing for an adult to be exposed to Nandrolone (aka 19-Nor TESTOSTERONE) but in a child its long-term effects can be devastating. The side effects include early bone fusion (stunted growth) jaw elongation, sterility, and permanent loss of sexual function or characteristics, meaning males can become more feminine, and females more masculine…for good! We owe it to under-age athletes if not to all competitors to keep them away from this rubbish, because it is all pervasive.

Try it yourself! Look up Soma or Creatine, or weight-loss, or Tribulus terrestris or any other alleged supplement and you will find 100's of sites selling and competing to sell the product, but we challenge you to find the truth! And the truth is out there especially with more and more organisations advising against the use of such products and supplements

For athletes its now time to ask - is it worth the risk?

Information for the informed athelete: