Are supplements legalised drugs?

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.”


  1. Not to mention that eating ten eggs at a time will make you a gasbag no one will want to stand next to…

    I say… If the All Blacks are in favour of it I am automatically opposed to it…. just as a matter of principle. Sounds like the All Blacks are not scheduling a proper off season for their players if Ben and Owen Franks are only getting 10 days off a year. Eat all the supplements you want is what I say…. just don’t fail any of those random drug tests.

    1. I am afraid it is the same for all Southern Hemisphere players mdk … And that is perhaps the issue at hand … Can the human body handle the rugby workload being asked of it? I say no …

      1. No one ever wants to be told what to do, especially if they are making money at it.

        The limit for forwards and backs is totally different. No point in comparing a guy whose shorts are hardly dirty at the end of the game and a flank now is there?

  2. Could a possible solution not simply be the various sporting bodies doing investigations into various supplement manufacturers and suppliers and give players options for which supplements are in fact “endorsed or legal”?

    I mean the current system says to the players,” You need to know what you can and cant take! You need to be responsible for your own health as a player! You need to accept that the decisions you make will affect you professional career BUT we are not going to tell you what you can use!”

    Why not rather say:” Here you go boys and girls, take these supplements, they have been and will continue to be tested to make sure they comlpy with requirements.”

    Anything out of this scope of supplements will then be deemed to be against regulations and everybody knows where they stand.

    Alot is asked of our professional sportsmen and those who have been there know that seldom does any player really walk onto the field without some sort of niggle or ache, especially the players who have seen in excess of 5 seasons at the top. The body takes longer to recover and the poor okes need all the help they can get.

    I reckon its time for the manufacturers and the sporting bodies to work together to provide products that are legal and not products that may be good today but not tomorrow.

Comments are closed.