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Can high school athletes take supplements?

Year-long ban for UF QB raises questions about what students can take

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – University of Florida Quarterback Will Grier is suspended for the next 355 days for what he says was the use of an over-the-counter supplement.

The Gators' head coach said the supplement was something that anyone could buy but is still against NCAA rules.

In light of that suspension, News4Jax looked into what the regulations and testing policies are for high school athletes in Florida.

Robert Sefcik, a member of the Florida High School Athletic Association Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, said the list of banned substances for high schools is similar to that of the NCAA and other professional sports, but the enforcement is much different.

"There are some very general policies put out by the FHSAA in regard to some of these issues," said Sefcik, the executive director of the Jacksonville Sports Medicine Program. "We rely a lot on the school principal as well as any medical documentation that can come for these athletes."

The Duval County School District said Tuesday that athletic oversight on policies comes from the FHSAA. Its policy is similar to that of the National Federation of State High School Associations, which says, "anabolic, androgenic steroids are prohibited by all sports governing organizations" and that the organization "strongly opposes the use of dietary supplements for the purpose of obtaining a competitive advantage."

"A lot of athletes aspire to be very competitive athletes, and they are looking for that perceived advantage by taking something, but it certainly can't replace a well-balanced, healthy diet," Sefcik said.

The recommendation is that high school student athletes consult with a sports dietician or their pediatrician before taking any supplement.

"Is it safe? Is it legal? And is it effective? If you can't answer yes to all three of those, then there is no reason for you to take those supplements whatsoever," Sefcik said.

"One in four supplements are contaminated," sports dietician Mindy Black said. "While you are growing, there is no reason to put different chemicals and possibly detrimental supplements into your body when we really can make leaps and bounds by having the right nutrition, drinking the right fluid, and getting into the weight room."

Sefcik said that FHSAA recommend coaches work with their high school athletes and stress the importance of rest and good nutrition as they continue to grow as opposed to taking supplements, but there is no mandatory testing for athletes.

Despite the extra leeway for high school athletes, sports nutritionists advised that if athletes who take supplements plan on playing college sports, they should take only those that are approved by the NCAA. That way they don't have any issues if they continue to take them in college.

To know what's in a supplement before you take it, go to www.consumerlab.com.