Athletes and supplements

In the NCAA, a vast majority of supplements are banned, and there are stiff consequences for taking the supplements and failing a drug test. The harshest punishment is a one-year suspension.

The supplements banned by the NCAA include Amino acids, Chrysin, Condrotin, Creatine, Ginseng, Glucosamine, Glycerol, HMB, I-carnitin, Melatonin, Pos-2, protein powders, and tribulus.

According to documents acquired by the TORCH, the NCAA says that “it is not permissible for an institution to provide any nutritional supplement to its student-athletes unless the supplement is a non-muscle building supplement.”

The non-muscle building supplements are divided into four groups. The groups are: Carbohydrate/electrolyte drinks Energy bars Vitamins and minerals/ calorie replacement drinks.

The NCAA’s Committee on Competitive Safeguard and Medical Aspects of Sports, (CCSMAS), said that “a protein may be classified as a non-muscle building supplement provided it is included in one of the four permissible categories, and does not contain more than 30 percent of calories from protein.”

The CCSMAS continued to state that “nutritional supplements containing more than 30 percent of calories from protein are classified as muscle-building supplements and may not be provided to student-athletes.”

In an article by a student at the University of Massachusetts- Amherst, part of the CCSMAS’ responsibility is to “oversee the drug testing program.” The CCSMAS found that protein supplements “have not been proven to benefit persons with an adequate diet. Creatine in excess of five grams per dose does not increase muscle creatine levels because the extra is excreted.” Furthermore, “there is no data to show that any one form of creatine is better than another. Neither Glutamine or CHO blockers have been proven effective.”

Brian Bosworth was an All-American linebacker with the University of Oklahoma, and a future star in the NFL. Before the 1987 Orange Bowl, he tested positive for steroids and was suspended for the game. The Sooners lost to the University of Miami Hurricanes and the National Championship. Oklahoma,was not put on probation.

In the summer of 1998, the NCAA management council met on a proposal, submitted by the Big East Conference, that creatine and other muscle-building supplements would have been added to the “list of nonpermissible medical expenses.”

The cabinet eventually agreed with the Big East and stated that “in order to protect the health of student-athletes and to minimize the institutional legal liability, institutions should be prohibited, throughout the calendar year, from financing and/or providing supplements for which significant concerns exist regarding product efficacy, purity, medical necessity and safety.”

During the summer of 2000, the NCAA compliance cabinet met on a series of subjects, including supplements. One of the subjects the committee discussed was providing glucosamine and condrotin to student-athletes for medical purposes. The committee concluded, “It is permissible for an institution to provide gulcosamine and condrotin to a student-athlete for medical purposes, provided such substances are prescribed by a licensed medical doctor to treat a specific diagnosed medical condition and are necessary to enable to the student-athlete to participate in intercollegiate athletics.”

As an NCAA member school, St. John’s has to abide by all bylaws created by the NCAA, including the laws about supplements. Ron Linfonte is the trainer for the athletic department, and is the man in charge of distributing non-muscle building supplements to the athletes. “We only give them [the athletes] Powerbars, Gatorade, and Gatorade type products. That’s the only things we give out to our athletes here. Anything else,we’re not sure how each person reacts to them, and there’s no guarantee it would not make them positive on a drug test,” said Linfonte.

Linfonte also said that along with NCAA standards for supplements, there “are institutional guidelines on what we want to give out to athletes”. As an example, Linfonte said that the men’s basketball team is “done [tested] only at the NCAA championships.” He added that “football, indoor and outdoor track, they’re tested all year round.”

Linfonte compared the NCAA punishment to the institutional punishments. “If you test positive (by the NCAA) you’re suspended for one year, from that date of testing.

Institutional guidelines, state that the first time an athlete is tested positive, there is no suspension. The second time an athlete is tested positive, they are suspended for a certain period of time, until he has noting positive left in his system. The third time, there will be harsher penalties imposed,” said Linfonte.

Linfonte declined to comment on whether St. John’s had any athletes suspended during his tenure as athletic trainer.