Ben Franks calls for better testing of products

BETTER MANAGEMENT: Ben Franks says Drug Free Sport NZ needs to specifically outline which products can be used.
BETTER MANAGEMENT: Ben Franks says Drug Free Sport NZ needs to specifically outline which products can be used.

Hurricanes prop Ben Franks says professional rugby players need more protection from the risk of inadvertently taking a banned substance via supplements.

The 28-year-old believes revelations about the use of performance-enhancing substances in Australian sport are a reminder of the need to understand the needs of modern-day professionals.

Drug Free Sport New Zealand urges rugby and league players not to take any supplements, due to the risk of banned substances.

But Franks, who estimates "at least 90 per cent" of New Zealand's professional rugby players take supplements such as protein powder, said the agency's view was unrealistic.

"Firstly you have to look at what sport is, especially for a rugby player or a league player," he said. "Now it's become fully professional it's not two trainings a week and a game any more. We train every day plus more games, so for the body to get through it needs help. To say you take no supplements, well, it's just not realistic any more."

And Franks fears an unsuspecting player will one day test positive unless products are tested and officially sanctioned.

"How do you know they are safe? It's a good question and one I ask Drug Free Sport [New Zealand] every time they talk to us.

"I have a feeling people think supplements are bad - well, no. There's a line at what you can't take obviously, but then there is what you can take.

"As far as my supplementation, I've always tried to stick to the basics, the proteins, the creatine, the amino acids, the vitamins, just to keep the body healthy.

"The problem is Drug Free Sport doesn't guarantee any product. So protein powder, for example, that's not illegal. But I could go down to the store now and for some reason something has accidentally got in that protein powder, there might be a batch they made that's been contaminated.

"I take it, I test positive. I've done nothing wrong. They will say, ‘You should have known', and I'll get banned for two years. I have a real problem with that. I think they need to come out with a supplier that we know and we know we can trust."

Although most teams had a sponsored supplier, even those were not 100 per cent guaranteed by the World Anti-Doping Authority or the New Zealand agency.

"They test the players to police it like that, that's fine: you can test the players. But why not do a bit more work and test the products, tell us what we can take, because we have to take something."

Franks said the New Zealand Rugby Union did a good job of providing guidelines, but stressed that these were not failsafe.

"You can have guidelines, but it still doesn't tell you exactly what you can take. For me, we should be looked after so that we know we can go down to the store and there is a whole range that I know I can take."

Franks will start at loosehead prop on Saturday in the Hurricanes' final Super Rugby pre-season match, against the Chiefs at Mangatainoka.

Loose forward Brad Shields will start at No 8 in his first match since suffering a knee injury in the team's final match of last year, and captain Conrad Smith makes his first appearance of 2013.


Hurricanes: Andre Taylor, Matt Proctor, Conrad Smith (c), Rey LeeLo, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Brad Shields, Karl Lowe, Victor Vito, Jason Eaton, Jeremy Thrush, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Dane Coles, Ben Franks. Reserves: Ash Dixon, Ben May, Reggie Goodes, James Broadhurst, Mark Reddish, Blade Thomson, Ardie Savea, Faifili Levave, Mike Coman, Chris Smylie, James Marshall, Tim Bateman, Ope Paleseuma, Richard Buckman

The Dominion Post