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Educating Student Athletes about Supplements

Every year, many student-athletes lose eligibility and are suspended because they tested positive for an NCAA- banned drug they unwittingly took in a supplement. How do they know what’s ok to take?

Every year, many student-athletes lose eligibility and are suspended because they tested positive for an NCAA- banned drug they unwittingly took in a supplement.

The NCAA Committee On Competitive Safeguards And Medical Aspects Of Sports has heard many appeals of positive drug tests on behalf of student athletes who tested positive for things like selective androgen receptor modulators (SERMs), which are a banned anabolic agent. These kids may not have even been aware that they were taking a banned drug, but it makes no difference because they sign a drug testing consent form that warns of the risk of supplements. In other words, they’re responsible for what they ingest, which only makes educating them even more important.

NCAA legislation requires schools to educate their student-athletes, but the onus remains on the individuals taking the supplements because a positive test resulting from a banned ingredient still means loss of eligibility.

The NCAA subscribes to “Drug Free Sport AXIS,” the only authoritative resource to provide a review of ingredients on a dietary supplement product or a medication to determine if the ingredients are banned. This is, essentially, the college equivalent of NSF International’s “Certified For Sport” designation.

Further, NCAA Bylaw 16 restricts the types of nutritional supplements that member schools can give to their student-athletes. Of course, kids playing competitive sports need to be able to replenish fluids and refuel with calories though a carbohydrate or electrolyte supplement, but the NCAA takes a “food first” approach to fueling performance as there’s a reduced risk of harm compared to consumption of supplements.

So, if your athletes are taking supplements outside those you recommend, be sure they know what they’re actually taking and that they know to look for a “safe” designation on the supplement label.

REFERENCES:

Tainted Supplement Study https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2706496

Published in Jama Network Open Journal in 2018