In my younger days as an athlete, I could walk into any store and purchase just about anything to eat or drink without concern. Even if I was looking to improve my diet (make it more nutritionally sound), it was unlikely I would have to concern myself too much with what the actual ingredients were. Well…those days are long gone.
Recently a group of ten Menomonie High School athletes were suspended for three football games for this upcoming fall season for just such an approach. What was their violation? They consumed an energy drink (C4 Extreme) that contained an illegal performance-enhancing substance (Synephrine), as deemed by the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA). Not something I had to be too concerned about as a high school athlete.
The athletes in question came forward and admitted their use, stating they had no knowledge of their wrongdoing. They likely just figured any“energy drink” they purchased over the counter at a local store would be fine, probably didn’t even give it any thought other than that it would be good to drink before their workout. Same thought process I might have used back in high school.
However, the use of performance-enhancing substances has become problematic in recent times. Companies who supply and market these “energy” and “muscle building” substances are more concerned about their bottom line than whether it causes any issues for teen athletes who might consume their product. Money rules, basically.
Today’s competitors, at all levels, have to understand the climate in which they participate. It is not possible for athletes to claim ignorance regarding what they put into their bodies; it’s simply part of the consequences of today’s sports culture. They need to be more knowledgeable, and more responsible, about any type of supplementation they plan on using, even simple energy drinks like the one mentioned above.
I am sure there are those that feel any suspension for these Menomonie High School athletes is overkill based on their use of an over-the-counter substance anyone can buy (even though it says on the label that it should not be consumed by anyone under 18). It is true kids are kids and they do make mistakes, so why not give them a break (especially since they really had no idea what they were taking was a banned PED). Heck, I’m an adult and I still make mistakes. Doesn’t everyone?
Nevertheless, part of the learning process growing up is in making mistakes and learning from them through the consequences doled out. With no consequence what has one learned?
To me, giving them no penalties supports an enabling type of thought process; not a good thing. And keep in mind that these young athletes had their suspension decreased because they came forward and admitted what had happened.
My perspective is simple; missing three games is not the end of the world and sets the proper tone for others who might have followed in their footsteps. It will be something they remember and that they will tell others. Plus, the punishment was reduced based on the character they showed coming forward so, in my book, the punishment fits the deed in this case. So be forewarned, as an athlete, it is your responsibility to “know” what it is you put into your bodies. If you don’t, there is no one else that will. As sad as some may believe this to be, it is just another “reality” that the “winning at all costs” attitude (and the companies trying to take advantage of that) has brought to the sports and youth sports table.
Some referenced articles: