Four members of the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s 10-person executive board said Monday that they would like the high school sports governing body to take a more aggressive stance on dietary supplements.
Their statements came one day after the Tribune published a six-page special section detailing a number of concerns with supplements: safety, mislabelling, easy access, lack of federal oversight, and misuse by high school athletes.
"We definitely need a bylaw because there’s a component of a bylaw that if you violate it then you have a problem," Tempe district athletic director Don Wilkinson said. "I think if we take a strong stance by issuing a statement, that might help, but just having that doesn’t seem to do much because you’re still leaving it up to the individual districts or schools."
Wilkinson said the exact wording of such a bylaw would be a product of ongoing discussions between the AIA’s members and its sports medicine advisory committee.
AIA executive director Harold Slemmer said the board will discuss the supplement issue at a meeting, Sept. 8-9 in Prescott, that generally draws about 90 percent of the AIA member schools’ representatives.
Slemmer also said the AIA is working with Dr. Jim Stray-Gundersen, who advises the Norwegian Olympic Committee on supplement usage, to draft a position statement regarding supplements. Stray-Gundersen will speak at an AIA-sponsored symposium later this year that will address, among other things, supplement use.
"After looking at the (Tribune’s) articles there’s no question we need to get this information out to everybody," Slemmer said.
Chandler district athletic director John Carlson, also an executive board member, said he favors regulation at the high school level. But Carlson worries that a bylaw might be met with opposition by parents.
"I know the NCAA has banned certain substances but by then the athletes are adults and out on their own. They’re able to make their own choices,’ Carlson said. "What if a parent buys a supplement for their kid and we tell them their child can’t take it? I would be concerned about a lawsuit."
Carlson said he would like the AIA to recommend to schools that they educate their students more thoroughly regarding supplements. But Carlson admitted that relying on individual schools and districts to implement those programs might be unreliable.
McClintock principal Dan Serrano, another board member, said it is up to the schools’ principals, coaches and parents to make sure their kids are aware of the dangers of supplements.
"I thought I knew a lot about what’s going on with kids but as a principal I learned a lot (Monday) from those articles," Serrano said. "Kids don’t know what the consequences might be because they don’t listen. They’re kids. They take risks. It’s the coaches’ and parents’ role to educate them."