Editor’s Note:  This is the second in a series of articles regarding the use of supplements in high school football programs.

The FDA exists to protect the public health by regulating human/animal drugs and biologics, medical devices, tobacco products, food, cosmetics, and electronic products that emit radiation. FDA enforcement usually occurs after a product is already on the market and safety issues become apparent.
The FDA doesn’t review the effectiveness or safety of dietary supplements unless a supplement may contain a new ingredient not marketed in the United States. A notification must be filed with the FDA 75 days prior to the marketing of the ingredient and include information that the manufacturer or distributor of the new ingredient is “reasonably safe.” If safety issues occur with the new ingredient, then the FDA evaluates product safety “through research and adverse event monitoring.”
FDA regulations require that food labels be present on most foods, including dietary supplements. Any claims on food products are required to be “truthful and not misleading”. Manufacturers must list the serving size and the nutrients contained in each serving in the Nutrition Panel or the “Supplement Facts” for dietary supplements.
Nor does the FDA approve structure-function claims on dietary supplements and other foods. An example of a structure-function claim is the statement, “Protein builds muscle mass.” Dietary supplements must provide a disclaimer regarding structure-function claims that the claim hasn’t been reviewed by the FDA. The product label must also state that the product isn’t “intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”
The Arkansas School Board Association (ASBA) provides updated school policies that are generated from educational laws passed by the Arkansas General Assembly after every legislative session so that policies are consistent across the state. School districts are required by law to electronically post all school district policies and student handbooks or to make them available in a hard copy format.
Heber Springs School District Policy 4.35 Student Medications states, “Unless authorized to self-administer, students are not allowed to carry any medications including over-the-counter medications or any perceived health remedy not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration while at school.” This statement occurs on page 54 of the student handbook.
Last December a girls’ volleyball coach, Deborah Clark, resigned her position from the Westside Consolidated School District when she learned that Superintendent Scott Guantt recommended termination because she sent a group text to volleyball players instructing them to mix C4 in a water bottle and consume it before the game without the knowledge of the head coach or consent from the parents. C4 contains caffeine. The documents that the “Bryant News” obtained from the school district state that “some of the players felt shaky, unwell, and jittery and even reported their vision was effected by the drink not to mention “crashing” as the caffeine wore off.” C4 is banned by the National Federation of State High Schools Association (NFHS) and the Arkansas Athletics Association (AAA).    
According to a DHS investigative report provided to The Sun Times, Dusty Combs admitted to providing a non-FDA regulated product, BCAA EnergyTM, to a student. Like C4, BCAA EnergyTM contains caffeine, a substance banned not only by the NFSHSA and AAA, but also by the NCAA and the NFL. Coach Combs was recommended by Superintendent Alan Stauffacher for promotion to Junior High Head Football Coach and Senior Assistant Football Coach. The School Board approved the promotion 4 to 1 with the one opposing vote coming from Judy Crowder. All members of the school board knew that DHS was investigating the allegations against Combs.
In the same DHS report, the investigator wrote, “Brad Reese stated that the coaches were selling the supplements…It would appear that the school is providing work out supplements without consent of the children’s parents based on these statements.” Calls were placed and messages left for Brad Reese and Dusty Combs requesting interviews and to give them an opportunity to explain the school district football program. There was no return phone call from either as of the publishing of this article.
The Arkansas Athletics Association website links to the NFHS position statement on dietary supplements, which states, “The NFHS SMAC strongly opposes the use of supplements by high school athletes for performance enhancement, due to the lack of published, reproducible scientific research documenting the benefits of their use and confirming no potential long-term adverse health effects with their use, particularly in the adolescent age group…In order to discourage dietary supplement use for athletic performance: school personnel, coaches, and parents should allow for open discussion about dietary supplement use, and strongly encourage obtaining optimal nutrition through a well-balanced diet; remind athletes that no supplement is harmless or free from consequences and that there are no short cuts to improve athletic performance; and, because they are not strictly regulated, dietary supplements may contain impurities and banned substances not listed on the label.”
The NCAA Nutritional/Dietary Supplements Warning states: “Before consuming any nutritional/dietary supplement product, review the product with the appropriate or designated athletics department staff! Dietary supplements, including vitamins and minerals, are not well regulated and may cause a positive drug test result. Student-athletes have tested positive and lost their eligibility using dietary supplements. Many dietary supplements are contaminated with banned drugs not listed on the label. Any product containing a dietary supplement ingredient is taken at your own risk [in bold].”
The NFL Policy on Performance-Enhancing Substances, Appendix D, Use of Supplements, states: “Over the past several years, we have made a special effort to educate and warn Players about the risks involved in the use of “nutritional supplements.” Despite these efforts, several Players have been suspended though their positive test result may have been due to the use of a supplement…As the Policy clearly warns, supplements are not regulated or monitored by the government. This means that, even if they are bought over-the-counter from a known establishment, there is currently no way to be sure that they: (a) contain the ingredients listed on the packaging; (b) have not been tainted with prohibited substances; or (c) have the properties or effects claimed by the manufacturer or salesperson….For your own health and success in the League, we strongly encourage you to avoid the use of supplements altogether, or at the very least to be extremely careful about what you choose to take.”
States are beginning to regulate and ban performance enhancing drugs and supplements in the public-school systems as well. Michigan was the first to initiate this legislation in 1999 when Act 187 prohibited “public school employees and volunteers from promoting or supplying dietary supplements which carry claims of enhanced athletic performance.”
In October 2005, then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law SB37, which required any person interested in competing in high school sports to sign a pledge that they would not use performance enhancing supplements. It also banned any supplement manufacturer from sponsoring any school events. The bill established the high school coach education and training program as well as prohibiting the marketing, sale and distribution of prohibited dietary substances.
Michigan passed Act 216 in 2006 in which the law “requires all public school districts and academies to include in their local codes of conduct that possession or use of any National Collegiate Athletic Association banned drug is not permitted.” Any student found with banned substances suffer the same penalties established by Michigan school districts for the possession/use of tobacco, alcoholic beverages and illegal drugs.
In July 2007, Governor Rick Perry of Texas signed into law a bill that required random steroid testing of public school athletes. Any athlete who tested positive for anabolic steroids could be suspended and permanently banned from participating in athletics. Besides Texas, New Jersey and Florida also mandate steroid testing. Eight other states have passed laws for testing, but didn’t mandate it, and seventeen other states have testing policies at the state or local level.
There is no law in Arkansas mandating anabolic steroid testing. As the NCAA and the NFL performance enhancing policies have warned, dietary supplements may be contaminated with banned substances, putting athlete’s health and sports eligibility at risk.