In sports, having even the slightest edge on your opponent could mean the difference between winning and losing. That extra boost of energy is what every athlete desires. It’s no wonder more and more college athletes are turning to performance enhancers to find that winning edge.

When the average person thinks of performance enhancers, steroids and needles come to mind.

After continued research by the NCAA, however, other more surprising substances have been placed on the banned list. A recent addition to the list includes popular energy drinks like Red Bull.

According to the MAAC sports handbook, “MAAC policy prohibits athletes from drinking products that contain concentrated amounts of caffeine. The use of these products, (e.g.: Red Bull) is prohibited by all game personnel in all MAAC sports during practice and competition. A violation of this rule by a student-athlete will result in his/her suspension from the practice, game and/or championship.”

“I’ve heard about Red Bull being banned,” said Laura Mrowka, captain of the women’s soccer team, “but it was never specifically brought to my attention. I think the NCAA needs to do a better job of informing the athlete.”

Mark Ayotte, director of sports medicine at Fairfield, said he feels the NCAA can only do so much to keep the student athlete aware of what is banned.

“It is hard for anyone to keep up with the new drugs that are out there today, whether they be legal or not,” said Ayotte. “A substance might look like it did before, but it may be mixed with something else that could be banned. The best thing for an athlete to do is to come to us and ask before trying something new to boost their performance.

It is clear that in today’s world of professional and college athletics, performance enhancers have evolved well beyond the old stereotype of an athlete sticking a needle in his or her arm.

Performance enhancers can now be hidden in a little silver can sporting a cartoon bull that can be found in every convenience store on every corner.

It’s a different and ever-changing environment, and student athletes need to take that into account to protect the integrity of their sports, and themselves, Ayotte said.

“The students here are usually very careful about what they put into their body,” said Ayotte. “The athlete has to decide if what they picked up at the local GNC is legit or not. It may be approved by someone but not necessarily legal according to NCAA guidelines.”

Drug testing for professional and student athletes continues to be a hot topic for the general public. With significant increases in testing frequency and in the kinds of substances tested for, will the testing soon reach beyond professional and NCAA athletes?

“I think all levels of athletics should be drug tested,” said Justin Eisner, captain of the club hockey team, which is not subject to NCAA or conference drug testing. “And I don’t know why club sports aren’t. I’m not condoning it, but why wouldn’t you take something to make you faster or stronger if you aren’t going to be tested for it?

“If you want to get bigger faster, it may be dangerous to your health, but I’m sure kids do it. Sometimes you can tell when you line up against someone with a little extra flowing through them.”

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