NCAA Clamps Down On Supplements

New NCAA rule disallowing creatine distribution draws criticism

By Staff

Athletic Management, 12.5, August/September 2000,

On August 1, a new NCAA rule on nutritional supplementation went into effect for Division I institutions with little debate or media attention. However, for athletic trainers and strength coaches, its effects are not so small.
Proposal No. 99-72, passed by the NCAA Division I Management Council on a 46-4 vote in April and approved by the Board of Directors, amends Bylaw 16.5.2 with the following new wording: “An institution may provide only nonmuscle-building nutritional supplements to a student-athlete at any time for the purpose of providing additional calories and electrolytes, provided the supplements do not contain any NCAA banned substances. Permissible nonmuscle-building nutritional supplements are identified according to the following classes: carbohydrate/electrolyte drinks, energy bars, carbohydrate boosters, and vitamins and minerals.”
This means that NCAA schools will no longer be able to provide their athletes with any muscle-building supplements, including creatine. Athletes can continue to use these supplements, but only if they purchase them at their own expense.
The rationale behind this change is given as the following: “Because of the lack of long-term studies on possible side effects and lack of FDA [Food and Drug Administration] regulation, it is not advisable for muscle-building supplements to be provided. This proposal would prohibit an institution from doing so, while allowing institutions to provide nonmuscle-building nutritional supplements at any time. Further, although there is continued dispute regarding the safety of muscle-building supplements, the fact remains that such supplements are performance enhancing. Institutions that have the resources to provide such supplements to their student-athletes could obtain a competitive advantage. Identifying permissible expenses provides clearer direction to member institutions.”
“The basic reason behind this legislation is one of competitive equity,” says Jane Jankowski, Public Information Coordinator for the NCAA. “Within Division I, you have a number of schools that have more money than others and can provide items that others can’t. This legislation levels the playing field in this particular area.”
Many strength coaches are unhappy with new rule, pointing out that it is full of loopholes. “It’s a very vague area,” says John McBride, Strength Coach at the University of the Pacific. “You can still give athletes stuff for extra calories. So if you put creatine in a product high in calories, can you still give that out by calling it calorie supplementation? And does the [rule] mean, as an individual, I can sell creatine to athletes, since as a strength coach I might be able to offer a better deal than sending a kid to the local GNC?”
Despite the Management Council’s lopsided vote, not all athletic directors favor the new rule, either. “At Temple, our medical people have been in favor of creatine,” says Temple University Athletic Director Dave O’Brien. “It strikes me as a little backwards. If it seems to be legitimate to use, it should be permissible for the institution to distribute it—then you have professional medical personnel handling the distribution. ”
The University of Nebraska has drawn up a plan for dealing with the new rule. Boyd Epley, head of the Huskers’ strength-training program, will post times when staff nutritionists and student assistants will be at local grocery stores and nutrition centers. They’ll accompany student-athletes while they shop and advise them which products to buy. “That way, there’ll be only good things in their cupboards at home,” Epley said in an Orlando Sentinel article.
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