High school athletes would be discouraged from using nutritional supplements under a proposed bylaw approved Monday by the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s executive board.
The proposed bylaw, which still needs approval from the AIA’s 44-member legislative council, was prompted by an investigative report on supplement use that appeared in the Tribune Aug. 24. The Tribune found that use of dietary supplements among high schoolage students has increased dramatically in recent years, even as deaths attributed to the use of some supplements has increased.
AIA executive director Harold Slemmer said Monday he expects the legislative council to approve the bylaw, which needs a two-thirds majority to pass.
The new bylaw would require all AIA member schools to communicate the association’s position statement on dietary supplements, drugs and performanceenhancing substances to all student-athletes each year.
Schools that do not comply could face sanctions.
"The thing we’re emphasizing with kids is an ethicalbased path they need to pursue to enhance their performance," Slemmer said. "Our position is that supplements are rarely, if ever, needed to meet those goals. A healthy diet and proper exercise will accomplish the same thing."
The AIA drafted its position statement with the help of Dr. Jim Stray-Gundersen, who has worked with the Norwegian Olympic Committee’s research arm and the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Stray-Gundersen addressed supplement usage before the executive board at its October meeting.
When member schools’ representatives met this summer in Prescott, some administrators voiced support for a stronger bylaw that would include a ban on certain substances. But Slemmer said the cost of testing and potential legal challenges to implementing such a law prevented many districts from approving an outright ban.
"In light of the awareness that’s been raised over the last six or seven months I’m optimistic that, at minimum, this is a good way to go," Slemmer said. "Some might think we need something even clearer or stronger, but we didn’t want to overstep our policies. The way our association works, ultimately this decision is up to the school districts."
McClintock principal and executive board member Dan Serrano said the board is working on a similar statement to issue to all parents of student-athletes.
The proposed bylaw only requires schools to communicate the AIA’s opposition to unfettered use of supplements but does not require schools to educate student-athletes on the usage and effects of dietary supplements. However, Serrano said that is also a possibility as the board moves forward.
"I can’t say whether this position statement goes far enough. I think we’ll have to wait and see how students and parents react to it and then we can review it and decide if we need to make changes," Serrano said. "Do we stand in front of student-athletes right now and say, ‘Don’t take this and don’t take this’? No, we don’t. But maybe this is a starting point for getting into that."
The Arizona Interscholastic Association’s position statement on dietary supplements, drugs and performance-enhancing supplements:
• It is the position of the AIA that a balanced diet, providing sufficient calories, is optimal for meeting the nutritional needs of the growing student-athlete.
• It is the position of the AIA that nutritional supplements are rarely, if ever, needed to replace a healthy diet.
• Nutritional supplement use for specific medical conditions may be given individual consideration.
• The AIA is strongly opposed to doping, defined as those substances and procedures listed on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s prohibited list at www.wada-ama.org.
• It is the position of the AIA that there is no place for the use of recreational drugs, alcohol or tobacco in the lifestyle of the student-athlete. The legal consequences for the use of these products by a student-athlete are supported by the AIA.