It’s not all black and white…

Posted: February 7, 2013 in Coaching, Opinion

As a lover of all sport, I listened with mixed emotions as Brad McGee sat in the Fox Sports News studio not long after the ACC revelations came out about the level of performance enhancing drug taking in Australian sport.  He made one point that perhaps got missed by most, but immediately got my attention.  He said we need to change our culture and gave, as an example, how in junior cycling some parents and coaches give their kids energy drinks like Mother, V and Red Bull to help them try and win a race.

Having been in the sport now for some time I’ve seen kids, as young as 11, drinking energy drinks to try and ‘pep up’ for the next race.  It seems to be a bit of a taboo area to discuss in the infield, so great that Brad brought it up and suggested that its something that culturally needs to stop and could potentially be the beginning of a slippery slope.  I’m not trying to say that all the kids I’ve seen drinking a V are going to end up drug cheats… but Brad (an Olympic and World Championship medallist and wearer of the yellow jersey) is saying that its this culture of seeking benefit from artificial stimuli that needs to be stamped out.

The fact that the manufacturers of these drinks actually tell you on the label that they’re not suitable for children should really raise a red flag for parents.  There are studies that show that their consumption will adversely effect your endurance performance rather than improve it and there is just too much unknown as to the long terms effects of a lot of the ingredients.

Cans of energy... or cans of sugar?

Cans of energy… or cans of sugar?

But I don’t think Brad was referring to the ingredients, more the idea of taking something like an energy drink to seek an advantage over your competitors.  Having made the decision its OK to take an energy drink to improve your performance, then is it also OK to take a No Doze or similar stimulant that is sold over the counter (like AFL players do?).  And then where does that lead you…

I’m not having a crack at those kids that choose to drink a V or a Red Bull before a big race… or their parents.  But it doesn’t seem to be being talked about amongst parents; there seems to be something of an Omertà on the subject.  I hope Brad bringing it up gets us thinking about it and talking about it.  Oh, and it was terrific to hear CA talk about Cam Meyer who doesn’t take any supplements, instead getting all his nutrition needs from food as well as ensuring he gets 10-12-hours sleep per night!

  1. cycdad says:

    Some great discussion on this on the Cycling Tasmania FaceBook page …

  2. Carl Brewer says:

    This is a big issue, and one that has prompted me to take arms up against one of the cycling magazines (Bicycling Australia) which regularly writes appallingly poorly researched advertorial articles, remember “oxy shots”? … Anyway, it’s a big issue. In my little group we discuss supplements, drugs and doping etc regularly, hopefully we’re instilling an ongoing culture of not cheating.
    Bringing it closer to on your topic, the energy drinks are just high sugar, high caffeine drinks. If you’d feed your kid a double short black with 10+ sugars, then you’re doing the same thing as feeding them V/Monster/Red bull etc. A 500ml can of these drinks has around 160mg of caffeine and a LOT of sugar. It’s great at giving kids hyperactive, anxiety type behaviors and sugar crashes once their insulin system kicks in and it’s setting them up for type 2 diabetes later in life. That’s a Win! It’s bloody stupid to give such high doses to kids and it introduces a mentality of needing some special kick to race, which can lead to a pyschological dependance on these drinks or in future, illicit/banned substances, ESPECIALLY if “everyone else is doing it”.

  3. cycdad says:

    Thanks for your thoughts Carl. Terrific a respected coach comes out and categorically lets the kids (and parents) know that consuming these isn’t a good idea.

  4. Nikki says:

    Cycling dad, you could not have put it any better. As a “swimming mum,” I have seen the younger swimmers (as young as 14) emulate their older peers at Nationals and “down” a quick shot of “V” before racing. Education and cultural change…

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