Growth in supplement sales leads to athletic controversy

By Joe Yamulla || Sports Editor

For years now, performance enhancing drugs have been tainting all that is right with sports.  From the 1990s steroid era in baseball, to the growing popularity of human growth hormones, a select group of athletes have tried to cheat their way to success.

To the credit of the NCAA and to the commissioners of the major sports leagues, drug testing has become a serious and extensive process. In each sport, cheating has become almost impossible to get away with.

However, the recent one-year suspension of University of Florida quarterback Will Grier unveils something profound about performance enhancing drugs and athletics– cheating can occur without a player even realizing it. Grier claimed that he took an over-the-counter supplement without realizing it is banned in NCAA sports. Companies such as GNC and Vitamin Shoppe sell over-the-counter supplements to athletes of all levels. The nutrition industry has become so focused on selling their products to athletes that their care does not lie in what the athlete takes and if it a legal supplement, but in the amount of profit they receive.

    Steroids are no longer an issue in sports. No athlete is so naïve in 2015 that he or she would take steroid injections without understanding that there are clear and concrete repercussions for these actions. The danger now lies in store-bought supplements. Many people who works out, or plays a sport, takes some form of supplement to complement his or her strenuous physical activity. Unless a specific athlete knows that big name companies like GNC cannot be trusted, it is so easy to fall into their trap.

I have experienced the feeling of walking into GNC before, and having an employee come up to me to see if he could sell me these supplements. If he realizes you’re not experienced with supplementing buying, he will most likely push and encourage supplements not only that do you not need, but also that could be banned in the field you compete in. 

    Luckily for me, I knew from working with a trainer back home that I clearly did not need to buy creatine, or testosterone boosters, after a GNC employee strongly encouraged me to buy them. The employee never asked if I competed in an NCAA sport or any activity that drug tests.  I do not play a sport here at F&M. However, these supplements are on the banned substance list in the NCAA guidelines. It is absolutely crucial for any athlete to have this awareness because these “nutrition” companies could ruin a college athletic career.

    I’m not saying that Will Grier does not deserve his suspension. He plays football for a massive SEC school and clearly should have checked with his training staff to know if the substance he bought over the counter was banned. Despite this, I understand how this happened. It is so easy for a big-time athlete to be persuaded the wrong way, and to play with using a supplement, especially if someone tells him it is completely legal. 

    The increase in supplement use is not always a bad thing. If taken correctly, they could enhance athletic performance and lead to a healthier physique. I take supplements. However, I do not take anything without serious research into what it is, and how it would affect my body. The issue with athletes today has become the idea of assumption. Everyone just assumes that everything is okay, and that big chain nutrition companies actually care about the intrinsic value of sports or exercise. The truth is, they don’t always.

    Sports and physical activity are what are really good in this world. Both promote a healthy lifestyle in which people come together to set goals and achieve them.

This benevolence can not continue to be hurt by controversy. Will Grier’s situation is sad and unfortunate. Yet, it should be used to spread awareness that not everything you put in your body is safe.

Sophomore Joseph Yamulla is the Sports Editor.  His email is jyamulla@fandm.edu

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