Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

NCAA Special -- Correcting the Record on NCAA Banned Drugs and Nutritional Supplements

The REC has recieved a number of emails in regards to the NCAA banned drug classes, dietary/nutritional supplements, and what is considered banned and how to effectively find this information.  The response is here:

As members of the institution’s sports medicine staff, athletic trainers and other health-care providers are called upon often to educate and advise student-athletes and athletics staff about NCAA policies related to banned drugs and nutritional/dietary supplements.  As members of the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports, and having sat on dozens of drug test appeals, we felt it important provide a clear and accurate accounting of these issues to assure our colleagues are best prepared to provide reliable advice to student-athletes to protect their health and eligibility. 

The following three areas are of critical importance to protecting health and eligibility of student-athletes.
1.       NCAA Banned Drugs:  The NCAA lists banned drugs by class, and any substance that is chemically related to the class is banned (unless specifically exempted.)  When the NCAA originally developed the banned drug classes, many examples were listed under each class, though the list was never an exhaustive list of all banned drugs.  From the beginning, any stimulant and anabolic steroid was banned, even if it was not named as an example under the banned drug class.  THERE HAS NEVER  BEEN A COMPLETE LIST OF BANNED DRUGS. This concept is critically important to compliance with NCAA banned drug regulations.   In recent years, it has become clear that the list of examples, instead of providing some clarification,  have actually created a false sense of security to student-athletes and staff alike, who believe that if the ingredients on a product are not found on “the list” in the same manner the product manufacture names them, they are not banned.   And as we explain below, with the many new supplements and designer drugs appearing on the market annually, creating a complete list is impossible.

2.       Nutritional Dietary Supplements:  Since 1994, with the enactment of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, DSHEA, the number of supplement products, and particularly products targeted to body building and athletic performance, has exploded.  The stated intent of DSHEA was to provide health products that consumer could easily access;  but the reality of  DSHEA is that many stimulants, anabolic steroids, diuretics and other non-essential nutrients are included in supplement products promoted to the public and our student-athletes as a quick route to enhanced performance –sexual, athletic and even cognitive.  DSHEA allows supplement products to go on the market without first proving effectiveness, safety and purity, creating a real drug problem for our student-athletes and for consumers in general.  Manufacturers add designer drugs and proprietary ingredients, and many of these products are spiked or contaminated with banned ingredients that are not listed on the labels.  And some supplement products change formulas without changing the name of the product.  This lack of premarket review and the ever-changing product formulas create real risks to eligibility, health and safety.  Student-athletes need to be aware of these real risks and understand that these products are NOT necessary for their health and performance and most are a waste of money.  Student-athletes should be advised that the most effective and safest way to enhance their performance is to avoid these questionable products and rely on a combination of a healthy diet, appropriate conditioning, rest and recovery, and avoiding substance abuse.

3.       Advising Student-Athletes who want to use supplements:  Even with the above stated concern, many of our student-athletes insist on using dietary supplements.  In most cases, members of the sports medicine staff are assigned the responsibility to educate student-athletes about banned drugs and to advise about and review supplement products that student-athletes intend to use.  The burden of this awesome responsibility can be dramatically reduced by establishing an athletics department policy that student-athletes bring all supplement products to the appropriate athletics staff before using, and then checking all supplements through the Resource Exchange Center, REC, staffed by the National Center for Drug Free Sport, the NCAA third party drug testing administrator.  The REC is the only authoritative resource for questions related to whether listed ingredients on nutritional supplement product labels or in medications contain NCAA banned substances.  Because of the changing nature of the dietary supplement industry and the manner in which manufacturers use proprietary names and rename products to suit their purposes, there is no way to create a reliable database of reviewed products.   Institutional staff should submit each time a student-athlete brings forth a dietary supplement product, as last year’s review may no longer apply to the this year’s newly formulated product by the same name.  To access the REC, call toll free or go to www.drugfreesport.com/rec.  Right on the home page you can select “Ask about Dietary Supplements” or go to the “Prescription/Over-the-Counter Drug Search”.  It’s as easy as 1,  2, or 3!

As sports medicine staff, we must fully understand these concepts, develop an appreciation for the real risks of supplement use, and create a comprehensive policy and educational program that provides clear advice to our student-athletes that promotes safe and healthy approaches to achieve their performance goals.

Debra Runkle
Medical Coordinator and Head Athletic Trainer
University of Dubuque

Doug Padron
Associate Director of Athletics and Head Athletic Trainer
Monmouth University

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