The use of dietary supplements by high school athletes is an issue the Arizona Interscholastic Association must tackle now, executive director Harold Slemmer said Sunday. For that reason, Slemmer will address the issue at the AIA's Athletic Administrators' Association workshop today at the Prescott Resort in Prescott.
The meeting, which runs through Tuesday, traditionally attracts 80-90 percent of the representatives from the AIA's member schools and serves as a "state of the AIA address," Slemmer said.
Slemmer said the AIA has been examining the issue of dietary supplements since last spring in its workshops. But a three-month study of the issue published in the Tribune on Aug. 24 was the impetus for further action, he added.
"We really need to educate ourselves," he said. "People don't really understand enough about supplements and what they're putting in their bodies."
Slemmer does not expect any action to be taken at this meeting. Instead, he hopes his address will spark further discussion on the topic when the individual conferences convene for meetings later this fall.
The AIA recently requested 150 copies of the Tribune's supplements package and will distribute them to every member in attendance today. Slemmer said the AIA could decide on two possible courses of action later this fall: a strong position statement regarding supplements or a new bylaw forbidding the use of select supplements. Such a law would require a two-thirds vote of the executive board.
"I can't say yet how that bylaw would be worded," he said. "There are a number of issues to deal with."
First and foremost among those, Slemmer said, would be defining supplements.
"We can't tell kids they can't take multivitamins, but human growth hormone is another thing all together," he said.
Although a wide array of products fall under the supplement umbrella, Slemmer did not rule out the possibility of a banned substance list.
"The NFL did it. Why can't we?" he said.
But Slemmer admitted that without testing at individual schools — a measure he would like to see — it would be difficult to catch kids using supplements.
"We can ban it, but until schools feel it is necessary to test, it won't work.
There has to be the desire to self-police," he said. "I know a lot of schools worry about cost, but even if they tested only 25 kids a year at random, the rest of those kids would know they could be tested and that will help dissuade them."