This week the quarterback for the Florida Gators, Will Grier, was suspended for one calendar year for testing positive for Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs), meaning he will not be eligible to play again until the seventh game of the 2016 season. Jim McElwain, the program’s head coach, explained in a press conference that his starting quarterback took an over the counter supplement that contained a banned substance and tested positive during a random drug test administered recently during the season. Varied sources have claimed all kinds of things about what exactly it was that he took; one source cited Ligandrol, a Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator, but was later said to be inaccurate. Another source said he purchased a supplement called L3 Terminus from a Complete Nutrition in Gainesville. Maybe. It doesn’t really matter.
What does matter is that he bought a supplement completely legally over the counter and he wasn’t injecting anabolic steroids he bought from some street peddler to gain the competitive edge. (Queue: Nefarious Street Merchant!)
Instead, Will Grier made a dumb mistake. And before you cast judgment on him for something you would never ever do *tsk*tsk*, think back to that pressure you felt when you were 20 years old (yes, he just turned 20 in April) and carrying an esteemed NCAA football program to an undefeated record midway through the season… There is a TON of pressure put on these kids to perform at a very high level and while it doesn’t excuse his ignorance, it should help you feel at least a little bit of empathy for his situation. That being said, there is a solution! A really really really really really easy solution! If you are being tested for any list of banned substances, only take supplements you trust aka ones that have been cleared by your team’s medical staff or trained coaches with the ability to clear them (probably not your head coach or positional coaches… Sorry, guys). Look for the label Informed Choice on a supplement, as anything with that label on it has actually been tested by a lab and approved for sport based on the NCAA’s list of banned substances. And if you’re a coach, make sure you drive it into your athletes that they absolutely MUST check with your staff before taking any supplements currently unapproved by your program. Boom. It’s really that easy. Now, onto the real crux of the matter:
What the hell is going on with supplement regulation in this country? It is insane. There is almost NO regulation at all. The last real act of regulation the government made on supplements came in 1994 with the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act. This act prevented the FDA from regulating and evaluating dietary supplements and basically opened the floodgates for the multi-billion dollar supplement industry we see today. We might as well be staring at a giant question mark on the ingredients list of most supplements on the shelf, because chances are that only about half of them are correct. Unsupported claims, unsupported doses, and unsupported research comes at us all a million miles a minute from a variety of sources. Magazines, Internet, TV commercials, they all say the same thing. “This will melt the fat away!” “Lean muscle gains!” “It’s really that easy!” Well, I’m here (along with every other strength and conditioning coach EVER that knows what he or she is talking about) to tell you that it’s NOT that easy. No, GNC guy, if you take this protein powder once a day for 30 days, you will not gain 12 pounds of lean muscle. It doesn’t work like that. In fact, I would guess that all that protein powder is going to do is make your farts smell worse than they already do.
One of the biggest problems we have as a community of fitness enthusiasts is that we are constantly searching for the magic pill. The powder or the shake or the spray that will take us to that next level. And, unfortunately, unless you’re taking anabolic steroids (which I most certainly do not recommend for ANYONE no matter who you are or what level you’re at), a supplement is not going to turn you into Mean Joe Green in 30 days. A supplement is designed to do exactly what the name implies: add, enhance, or complement the diet and exercise program that is driving your true results. So, if you are going to take supplements, which isn’t always necessary but is absolutely fine (I take all kinds of Advocare supplements), make sure you are taking ones that you trust. You are what you eat.