Do We Have A Right To Control The Supplements Athletes Take?

At the moment, there is much publicity surrounding the use of supplements in the rugby league and the AFL, which says that anti-doping authorities are there to prevent ‘cheating’ or using performance enhancing substances that give an athlete or team an unfair advantage over rivals. However, should these authorities also take players’ long term wellbeing into account, or simply leave it to them as adults to make their own decisions?

Several players who are unable to sleep or stressed about losing their place in the team have used painkillers to give them back their wellness edge, which some people argue is performance enhancing because they allow you to do things you wouldn’t be able to do without them. That aside, is it the duty of governing bodies to prevent long-term, chronic injury and illness in athletes, after they retire? Reliance on anti-inflammatories can lead to heart disease, and an athlete might spend his or her entire career taking them.

New medical information shows that we have potentially already crossed this line between preventing cheating and changing rules to protect players’ health, when the rules surrounding concussion were tightened. Therefore, it stands to reason that the use of painkillers, anti-inflammatories and supplements may one day be regulated, simply because they are bad for our players.

Vitamin and mineral supplements become used more and more the higher you go up the success ladder, so surely the vigilance of governing bodies has to keep pace with that escalation. But then again, should your wellness should be in your own hands, and not answerable to a large, dominating authority? Also, health is a very individual entity, and what works for one person may not work for another, so if authorities do get involved, how do they determine where to cap supplementation? In short, if we have crossed the line, where do we draw the new one?

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