Supplements risk student athletes being banned from competition

Unregulated pharmaceuticals could end Langara athletes' dreams


Reported by Austin Everett

Athletes who take supplements may not be aware they are taking unregulated pharmaceutical drugs that could be tainted, said a sports physiologist.

Charlie Seltzer, who sees athletes daily, said supplement users are not as careful as they should be, and that could have consequences during competitions.

Langara student Roy Lim, who uses pre-workout supplements, said they help him to get the “kick” he needs in order to get the work out he wants, but admits they are like a drug.

“As soon as you don’t get the same feeling as you once did, you look into other products that will give you a better kick,” Lim said.

Serious health effects

An American study from 2007 to 2016 found unapproved pharmaceuticals in 776 dietary supplements. The most common drugs found were sildenafil (sexual enhancement), sibutramine (weight loss) and synthetic steroids. The study confirmed these drugs can have serious health effects when combined with other medications, if overused or if mixed with other pharmaceuticals in other supplements.

Langara Falcons Stephanie von Riedemann in her game stance preparing to shoot a hoop. Photo by Austin Everett.

Not all strength-related supplements, like creatine, are unhealthy for athletes. It varies with individuals, Seltzer said. A substance good for one athlete could be harmful for another. Seltzer said it is crucial for athletes to consult a medical professional before using any supplements.

Against the rules

Most stimulants found in supplements are prohibited under the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, which implements and manages Canada’s Anti-Doping Program. It is a program which Jake McCallum, Langara director of athletics and intramurals, said teams at the college must abide by.

Falcons basketball player Stephanie von Riedemann said any kind of banned boost would get an athlete kicked off the roster.

“With crazy amounts of caffeine in your system, you’d be all jacked up, it would improve your endurance which would give you an unfair advantage.”

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