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AFL ups ante in supplements fight, with new controls in place

Nick Bowen  April 2, 2014 5:01 PM

It's about trying to take supplements out of the equation. Football is about man-on-man competition ... it's got nothing to do with pharmacological agents
THE AFL's new supplement controls are designed to stop clubs from chasing pharmacological benefits that are largely unproven, League medical director Dr Peter Harcourt says.

Last month the AFL introduced its own prohibited treatment list, which widened the scope of the substances already banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

The substances now banned by the AFL include AOD 9604, the anti-obesity drug at the centre of last year's Essendon supplements saga, along with specified peptides, a drug used to treat Alzheimer's disease (Cerebrolysin), drugs that claim to stimulate testosterone and androgen production (Tribulus and prohormones) and the anti-aging drug TA65.

Click here to read the AFL's prohibited treatments list

The AFL has also introduced a Prohibited Provider List - which, short of approval from the club doctor and the League, bans players from using compounding pharmacists, anti-aging clinics and practitioners, and overseas providers.

The AFL is also close to releasing a controlled treatments list, which will govern the use of nutritional supplements such as vitamins, health bars, concentrated food extracts including beetroot juice and fish oil, and amino acids.

In recent months, six clubs have been trialling a new IT system and related phone app that will record a club's usage of nutritional supplements.

Dr Harcourt told AFL.com.au on Wednesday the AFL's new controls were designed to rid the competition of supplements with no proven benefits.

"It's about trying to take supplements out of the equation. Football is about man-on-man competition, it's about strategy, it's got nothing to do with pharmacological agents," Dr Harcourt said.

"There's probably half a dozen supplements – if that – that have got some use.

"The bulk of them are completely unproven and yet people want to try it to get an edge and what we're really saying is that that's not appropriate.

"There are a whole lot of really top quality players who don't use any nutritional products at all, and a couple of the big, successful clubs barely use any.

"So it's not really a recipe for achieving significant performance advantages."

Dr Harcourt said the Essendon supplements scandal had been a "wake-up call" for clubs about how easily their supplements programs could spiral out of control without appropriate checks and balances.

He said the AFL's prohibited treatments list removed some of the grey areas for clubs in WADA's prohibited list, while the new regime as a whole hoped to encourage players to have a say in what supplements, if any, they take.

"It's trying to get the players involved in the discussion with the sports dietician and the doctor," Dr Harcourt said.

"What we're hoping is that the player will say, 'Why do I need to take this?'

"We want to ensure that they're fully informed."

Twitter: @AFL_Nick