In the wake of the doping furore hitting Australian sport, All Black prop Ben Franks has hit the headlines with his call for supplements to be monitored more closely.
Drug Free Sport New Zealand urges rugby players not to take any supplements, due to the risk of them containing banned substances. And given what happened to Johan Goosen in 2010, it would come as no surprise were SARU or SAIDS to do the same here in South Africa.
Goosen pleaded guilty to the use of stimulant Methylhexaneamine – a stimulant present in a supplement that Goosen had bought over the counter in Bloemfontein. The Judicial Committee decided that Goosen had been negligent and that his explanation of accepting assurance from the salesman that the stimulant contained no prohibited ingredients was insufficient.
But 28-year-old Franks, who has played 23 tests, believes that is unrealistic and that athletes should work more closely with the agency. He estimates “at least 90 per cent” of New Zealand’s top rugby players take supplements. Numbers would be similar in South Africa.
The New Zealand Herald reports that the new Hurricanes player’s views have been criticised by those who compare the taking of protein powder with illegal performance-enhancing drugs.
But Ken Franks, father of Ben and Owen, and owner of the family gym, has defended the modern practice of taking supplements – saying it’s not for enhancing performances but simply recovering from the demands of the game.
“Where everyone is misinformed is that as soon as you say ‘supplements’ it is this nasty, dark area – but a lot of the supplements are merely a bottle of vitamin C tablets that everyone has in their cupboard,” Ken Franks said. “People are missing the point I think.
“You can’t get it all from eating naturally. For example, straight after a heavy workout you’ve got a 30-minute window to get the protein into you – if you’ve had a hard workout who feels like sitting down and having a dozen eggs and a breast of chicken to try to get the protein? It’s just ridiculous.
“What Ben was saying was ‘why can’t we sit down with the drug agency?’ We know that the onus is always on the athlete to make sure, but why can’t the drug agency audit some supplement companies? Not to say ‘if you take them you’ll be right’, it’s still up to the athlete, but to say `we’ve audited the factory, their processes are up to pharmaceutical grade and we think everything is fine’. They’re not taking responsibility but at least they’re giving [athletes] a list of potential companies to use.”
“It’s all around recovery, it’s nothing to do with enhancement. You look at when the [Franks] boys get back from [European] tour. They get back at the end of November or early December. I think last year Ben and Owen had one week to 10 days off. The most important part of the year for them is the off season, so when everyone thinks the boys are on the beach having a holiday, they’re training twice a day, five times a week, just to get their condition back into them that they’ve lost over the season.”