Suspended Menomonie players were unaware of banned supplementThe suspensions given to Menomonie High School football players this week should serve as a warning to others to be wary of performance enhancers, even those sold legally in stores, school officials said Wednesday.
By: By Pamela Powers and Jon Swedien, The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis., Superior Telegram
MENOMONIE -- The suspensions given to Menomonie High School football players this week should serve as a warning to others to be wary of performance enhancers, even those sold legally in stores, school officials said Wednesday.
The Menomonie school district gave three-game suspensions to 10 players Tuesday, after school officials learned they consumed a dietary supplement containing a substance banned under Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association rules.
The students didn't know the product Cellucor C4 Extreme contained the banned substance synephrine, athletic director Bart Boettcher said.
"The kids are feeling terrible," Boettcher said. "I hope all students will take a look at what they are putting in their bodies, and if they don't know what is in something they need to ask.
"Our No. 1 concern is their health. I am just thankful there were no bad side effects. I don't want any student to have issues with this type of product."
School officials learned that the football players -- who will miss the three games this fall -- were taking the product after someone tipped them off to a message on Twitter. The players apparently used the social media platform to announce that were taking Cellucor C4 Extreme.
When confronted, the students admitted to taking the supplement but said they didn't realize it violated WIAA rules.
Football coach Joe LaBuda praised the students for their honesty, in an email he sent to parents.
"The other big positive is that we were able to cut this off right away and the students did not have any prolonged use of this product," Lubuda said in his email. "It could have been much worse and we could have had an athlete collapse while working out hard during a heated work out because of the stimulant effects of this product."
Synephrine is widely used for weight loss and has become a popular ingredient in dietary supplements since the government banned the use of ephedrine, according to Food and Chemical Toxicology, a international research journal. The journal noted the substance has been accompanied with reports of adverse effects, including cardiac arrest.
School officials said the students bought the product from the GNC store at Oakwood Mall in Eau Claire.
'Very poor advice'
Labuda said the students were given "some very poor advice" about the product. School officials said the product is supposed to be consumed only by adults. All the students involved in the incident are minors.
A representative for Pittsburgh-based GNC, a seller of health and nutrition products, said the company is looking into whether the synephrine was sold to the minors.
"We are investigating this situation. GNC's in-store cash registers are formatted to prompt store personnel to specifically ask for identification from customers who may be under 18 who want to purchase products that have age-based labeling," the representative wrote in an email. "We note that synephrine, in legal and safe levels, was clearly identified on the label of this product and that it is an athlete's responsibility to conform to the rules and regulations of his or her league."
Menomonie schools Superintendent Chris Stratton said the students should have been more careful.
"I think if the boys would have read the label they would have known," Stratton said. "This product is being promoted commercially."
The WIAA has been notified of the incident, Stratton said. The standard penalty for taking a banned substance is three games.
Meanwhile, student-athletes shouldn't assume that just because they read a product's label and didn't see any red flags that they're necessarily in the clear, WIAA deputy director Wade Labecki said.
"Supplement ingredient lists can be very difficult to decipher, as problematic ingredients can have multiple name variations," Labecki said. "There are common names (synonyms) that are listed in dietary supplements for the same stimulant. It's very possible that athletes are not aware of what's actually in the product they're taking, and athletes should be careful with any product."
Powers can be reached at 715-556-9018 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Swedien can be reached at 715-833-9214, 800-236-7077 or email@example.com.
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