It didn’t take long for the Tribune’s expose of dietary supplements to get the attention of important people in Arizona. Let’s hope their attention span is long enough to deal effectively with the issue.
Sunday’s series of stories by Scott Bordow and Craig Morgan showed that Arizona high school athletes are exposing themselves to dietary additives that are unregulated, easily available, sometimes dangerous and occasionally deadly.
State athletic authorities have yet to restrict their consumption, even though some such substances are banned at college and professional levels. Competitive pressure, often aimed at getting lucrative college scholarships, is among the factors leading to their use.
Members of the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s executive board immediately took notice.
Don Wilkinson, athletic director for the Tempe school district, said the AIA needs to pass a bylaw governing supplements because such a rule — as opposed to a mere statement or guideline — could be enforced.
Crafting such a regulation will be tricky. One issue might be parents who choose to buy supplements for their kids. But inasmuch as pushy parents may be contributing to the problem, their concerns ought not to outweigh the safety of student-athletes. If certain substances are banned, for example, a student could be disciplined regardless of whether he or his parents actually bought the stuff.
There’s also the question of whether AIA has the wherewithal to evaluate every supplement and fine-tune its regulations based on which are found safe and which might be dangerous. In truth, AIA probably couldn’t assume such a task. In truth, that should be the job of the federal Food and Drug Administration — but that agency’s hands are tied because of legislation pushed by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, whose palms are slick with the supplement industry’s financial grease. As a result, supplements now are peddled with the kind of patent-medicine hucksterism that was common before FDA was born a century ago.
Still, AIA should do what it can. Its first opportunity comes Sept. 8 and 9 during a meeting in Prescott that generally draws representatives from about 90 percent of its member schools.
No doubt AIA had much on its plate before the supplement issue arose. But now that it has arisen, it should move to the top of the agenda — and stay there until AIA is sure it has done everything it can to guard the health and safety of its young charges.