With creatine back in the news, Tony Ward reiterates our strong stance on the subject.
CREATINE raised its ugly head again this week.
The ongoing debate surrounding the food supplement was back in the news again and to forefront of international debate with the French Agency of Medical Security for Food (AFSSA) linking it to possible "carcinogenic (cancerous) risks."
Unfortunately it, like a certain proscribed organisation, "hasn't gone away."
While there is no evidence to suggest its use to be any more widespread now than it was at the height of the controversial drug issue a couple of years back.
Equally it would be naive in the extreme to presume it to be any less.
Open the current issue of Rugby World and there on Page 75 under the banner heading "When you need the POWER to destroy everybody else" is the magic potion - Creatine in all its glory ("only £39.99 sterling for a 1064gm tub or 3 for £99 - save £20").
Professional rugby player and former soldier Josh Lewsey (Wasps) was hired to emphasise its importance this month and advocated its quality nutrition (fair enough) and supplementation (not so).
Delve a little further and on Page 107 under the heading Supplements is something called Joint Response.
Priced at £8.99 sterling for 60 tablets this, we are told, is "thought to encourage the regrowth of ligaments and cartilage."
Note the word "thought". Now while this latter product differs in its stated aim from Creatine the ambiguity governing it is but one of two major problems I continue to have with this whole still legalised area.
The fact is that to this day we do not know any long-term or possible side effects from pumping excessive amino acid (in flavoured powder form) into the system.
I think it significant that although freely available and on sale over the counter here Creatine is banned altogether in France although former French scrum half and ex national coach Pierre Berbizier went out on a limb recently highlighting its widespread use at club level there.
The AFSSA report maintains a "potential carcinogenic risk" for use of the product (not yet banned by the IOC) it describes as a "legal steroid".
It further quotes epidemiologic studies as showing Creatine causing "digestive, muscular and cardiovascular problems."
For me, given such a quagmire of uncertainty, common sense, on top of concern for personal safety, would dictate that such products be avoided like the plague.
Clever marketing and repeat sales would seem to indicate a ready-made market despite the potential danger and still unquantifiable risk involved.
However, it is the second issue raised in this report as to the use of Creatine being "contrary to the rules, spirit and significance of sport" to which there should be no ambiguity whatsoever.
To me, using Creatine to gain "the power to destroy everybody else" is cheating plain and simple.
No matter how cleverly marketing wizards dress it up, it is encouraging athletes of all ages in all codes to cheat to survive.
God bless my innocence but to me the inside edge was gained solely through sheer unadulterated substance-free graft also known as training.
Of course, the spin is that in order to train harder and longer as well as recover quicker then Creatine's your only man.
Irrespective of it being risk-free and regardless of it working what a truly appalling concept.
And while some in positions of power (yes even in Lansdowne Road), however well intentioned, do not fully accept the chocolate box principle, I urge them think again.
Once the Creatine bug bites, so to speak, then the next step and its potential danger is obvious.
How long will the road be to steroids? The very term "performance enhancing" stinks in my book.
If the moral argument carries insufficient clout then I suggest parents who really care exercise great caution until the AFSSA report is proven or otherwise.
Incidentally, I note on the priority order form in Rugby World there is a guarantee that the product will be "sent under plain cover." I wonder why?
So, to those parents currently perplexed and unsure as to the rights and wrongs of this divisive issue, particularly so given that the health and welfare of their children could be at stake, I urge they actively discourage anything which interferes with the natural order.
Sport in whatever manifestation should represent equality of opportunity and a level playing field for all.
You may agree to differ but for me this awful product, although still legal, is nothing more than the first step on the road to full blown cheating.