NCAA bans caffeine for student athletes

The NCAA added caffeine to its list of banned-drug classes, effective this year, which affects student-athletes at Bellarmine University and across the nation. Caffeine can be found in everything from sodas to coffee, and it is something the majority of people consume on a daily basis. The NCAA’s list of banned-drug classes now includes this daily energy boost, stating that the drug test will be positive “if the concentration [of caffeine] in urine exceeds 15 micrograms/milliliter.”

The 2006-2007 Drug Testing Program issued by the NCAA states in its bylaws “that a student-athlete who is found to have utilized a substance on the list of banned-drug classes.shall be charged with the loss of a minimum of one season of competition in all sports if the season of competition has not yet begun or a minimum of the equivalent of one full season of competition in all sports if the student-athlete tests positive during his or her season of competition.” In other words, if an athlete drinks one too many Red Bulls before a game, he or she can be suspended for an entire year.

Student-athletes were asked whether or not they agree with the new policy. Their collective voice shows that the majority (73%) disagree with the policy. Sophomore cross country and track & field team member Jennifer DeChellis wonders what she will do now that the policy is in place. “How can you ask an athlete doing two-a-day practices and 18 hours of class to make it through the day without consuming some caffeine? I don’t think caffeine is addictive because I drink coffee when I need to, but not because I have to.”

Senior men’s soccer player Steve Slough agrees that the policy is there for a reason, but he wonders why it is as strict as it is. “I think caffeine in certain amounts dehydrates you and gives you an edge so it should be banned. But now I can’t drink a soda or a cup of coffee without the risk of becoming ineligible? That is pushing it.”

Dr. Ann Jirkovsky, Bellarmine University’s Faculty Athletics Representative and Vice President of the Executive Committee for the Great Lakes Valley Conference

(GLVC) feels that policy is in place for a reason. “The two main goals of the NCAA are to level the playing field, and to be mindful of student-athletes’ welfare,” she states. Bellarmine University Director of Athletics Scott Wiegandt echoes the sentiment. “I don’t disagree with the policy,” he notes. “It brings a level playing field for all athletes, and caffeine can still be used in moderation.”

Or can it? According to Jeanine Detz in Joe Weider’s Muscle & Fitness, the average amount of caffeine in the following drinks can be astounding. For example, one eight-ounce mug of brewed coffee can contain as much as 135 milligrams (mg) of caffeine. Red Bull lovers, beware as well. One eight-ounce can of the energy drink contains a staggering 80mg. Other common caffeinated beverages include Mountain Dew (55mg caffeine per 12oz can), Snapple Iced Tea (48mg caffeine per 16oz bottle), and even Diet Coke (45mg per 12oz can).

Slough, Wiegandt, and Jirkovsky also discussed revitalizing the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), which can give student-athletes a way for their collective voice to be heard. They, among others, are working to bring the SAAC back to life. In part two of this series, they will discuss the purpose of the SAAC and how student-athletes can get involved in it. For more information on this and other stories, check out the Bellarmine Sports Blog at http://bellarmine-sports.blogspot.com.

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