Players in over their heads on supplement use

Experts believe the Essendon FC supplements scandal could lead to a greater focus on player health and safety at club level.

Victoria University drugs in sport experts Associate Professor Dennis Hemphill and Associate Professor Craig Fry said this week's explosive allegations by Essendon's former high-performance manager, Dean Robinson, about the controversial supplements program made it clear there were serious governance and responsibility issues to be addressed at the club.

But Associate Professor Hemphill said the scandal would lead to changes far beyond the club at the centre of the storm.

"The recent Senate committee report on the Practice of sports science in Australia highlighted widespread confusion over what constitutes ethics in sport and what constitutes a sport scientist, given the range of disciplines it encompasses," Associate Professor Hemphill said.

"It also highlighted the lack of full-time GPs in professional sports to oversee increasingly influential sport scientists and a lack of management of high-performance programs."

Associate Professor Fry said expecting athletes to negotiate this confusing high performance landscape was now being revealed to be an unreasonable expectation on players.

"Current WADA/ASADA anti-doping codes state total responsibility for the athlete but with poorly regulated freelance sports scientists in a highly commercialized environment this is perhaps unrealistic," Associate Professor Fry said.

"It is becoming increasingly apparent that widespread confusion over supplements, codes and roles of sports scientists make it difficult to determine the extent to which athletes are responsible for the use of illegal or dubious performance-enhancement methods."

Associate Professor Hemphill said the proportion of blame leveled at both individuals and clubs in the upcoming ASADA report on the supplements issue would be crucial to where the issue leads next.

"Regardless, our hope is that the supplements affair will usher in a new era in which the quest for high-performance must be balanced with a focus on the wellbeing of athletes," he said.

Associate Professor Hemphill is with the university's Institute for Sport, Exercise and Active Living. Associate Professor Fry leads the Culture and Values in Health research program at the university's Centre for Cultural Diversity and Wellbeing.


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