Supplements career risk
The booming fitness supplement industry is a minefield for New Zealand youngsters looking at a career in sport, experts say.
Auckland College Sport chief executive Manoj Daji says better education about performance enhancing drugs is needed at the grassroots level.
The organisation was given board approval last week to start pilot education programmes in schools with Drug Free Sport NZ in 2014.
Mr Daji says Australian school sport has come under the microscope this year with two high school students being expelled in May for using steroids.
The World Anti-Doping Agency responded by calling for a ramp-up of education initiatives in Australia and students here should be given the same consideration, Mr Daji says.
"It's not at that point with us yet but who knows?
"Wherever sport in a country is big business then why wouldn't education around this type of thing be important?"
Mr Daji recently coached an under-13 representative team and saw youngsters being fed protein shakes, sports drinks and energy bars under the guise of performance enhancement at the competition.
The players were only on the field for a maximum of 50 minutes, he says.
"There's a real over-seriousness at that level. People are looking at what's being done in top level international teams and say that's what we need to be doing."
Mt Albert Grammar School director of sport David Long says education around drug use is an important ingredient in the school's academy programme.
"There are students now who are moving straight from secondary school to NRL clubs.
"If you're a naturally gifted sportsman and we haven't done our job to prepare you for the professional world then it's a problem," Mr Long says. "We feel like we're a stepping stone but we're still a secondary school."
Mr Long says most students playing sport in New Zealand don't have the money to buy supplements.
He doesn't think performance enhancing drugs are a huge issue here in comparison to Australia.
"Most of my guys at school are drinking electrolytes or water.
"That's as far as it goes," he says.
Drug Free Sport NZ education manager Maia Jackman says supplements are a real danger to young athletes.
There are no regulations around the substances used in the products, which can lead to inadvertent doping, the Blockhouse Bay woman says.
"It's such a big minefield for athletes that we pretty much tell them to stay away completely. You're risking your career.
"Is that drink before you work out really worth it?" Miss Jackman is a former professional football player and is passionate about changing the mindset of future athletes.
The billion-dollar supplement industry has grown rapidly since 2010 to the point where products line whole supermarket aisles under the banner of health food, she says.
"They're just so readily available. People don't know what is in them. They think it's good for them because it comes from a supermarket." Drug Free Sport NZ is currently researching what students and schools think is happening in the secondary sport world which will allow the organisation to develop future education plans.
"We want to be the fence at the top of the hill rather than the ambulance at the bottom," she says.