Gatorade a Gateway to Anabolic Steroid Use in High School Athletes?

Many people believe that dietary supplements, specifically sports nutrition supplements, are a “gateway” to anabolic steroid use. It is the steroid war’s version of the “gateway drug theory.” While I agree that teenagers should not be permitted to purchase or use stimulants and steroids sold as dietary supplements, I do not subscribe to the “supplements as a gateway to steroids” theory.

Chris Connolly, the head football coach and athletic director of Dolgeville High School in Dolgeville, New York, has taken the gateway theory, as it applies to suppplements, to the extreme.

The fear that using most common and casual substances will encourage his players to use more volatile and potentially harmful drugs is what has driven Connolly to ban his Blue Devil teams from using any supplement, including legal ones.

“I don’t even like GNC or EAS,” Connolly said. “We talk about in the preseason and in spring training: eat right, work right and take absolutely no supplements. We don’t even use Gatorade, only water.”

On the one hand, I think it is good to teach young athletes to believe in intrinsic factors as responsible for their abilities and success in sports rather than external factors like supplements.

But it is borderline irresponsible to be so anti-supplement as to ban Gatorade. I guarantee that more high school athletes die and will continue to die from dehydration and heat stroke than will likely ever die from anabolic steroid use.  Gatorade can help prevent dehydration, heat related illnesses such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Coach Connolly’s irrational fear of supplements places the teenage athletes playing sports for Dolgeville High School at a slightly greater risk for heat related illnesses.

Water works. But Gatorade has been documented to outperform water for various reasons detailed here, not the least of which is the flavor/taste of Gatorade.

Gatorade or Powerade – the electrolytes promote fluid retention & the carbohydrates provide energy for the brain and muscles. Electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium & chloride) are necessary for maximum absorption of water. Athletes typically prefer the flavor of Gatorade or Powerade & will stay better hydrated if these products are available.

There are legitimate reasons to prohibit supplement use by teenagers e.g. problem of contaminated dietary supplements, but the gateway rationale is not one of them.

Gatorade - gateway to anabolic steroids?
Gatorade – gateway to anabolic steroids?

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