Daniel then said to the guard…‘Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.’” - Daniel 1:11-13 (NIV)

Can You Win Without Drugs?
By Jimmy Page
jpage@fca.org
fcahealthandfitness.org
 

Ways alcohol negatively affects sports performance:

1. Decreasing reaction time and
    decision-making abilities.
2. Decreasing strength, power,
    speed and endurance.
3. Impairing balance and
    coordination.
4. Increasing fatigue.
5. Increasing the risk of injury.
6. Impairing the ability to recover
    from injury.


Five syringes discarded on the side of a Rocky Mountain road just outside of Boulder, Colo., were not exactly what I expected to see. Yet, as I cycled through some of the most scenic and challenging roads in all of Boulder, the site was unmistakable. I knew that many competitive riders used the high altitudes to train for races; but it appeared that it wasn’t just the altitude that would enhance their performances that day.

The world of sports has taken a beating this year. Major League Baseball was plagued by suspicions of pervasive steroid and amphetamine use, which cast doubt over the legitimacy of broken records. Leaders of the Tour de France, the world’s most grueling and prominent cycling race, were disqualified for either missing drug tests or testing positively for banned substances. The NFL handed out suspensions for steroid use and is still dealing with off-the-field brushes with the law.

All of these scandals have caused sports fans to ask, “Is anybody clean?” Unfortunately, it seems that with every amazing athletic achievement comes skepticism as to how it was achieved.

The problem of drug use in sports is so widespread that many states are now beginning drug testing at the high school level. States such as Florida have taken the lead by piloting a program that tests for steroid use. Others, including Texas, New Jersey, West Virginia and California, have followed suit.

One thing is for certain: for an athlete, using drugs is a recipe for disaster.

But pressure comes from every angle. Bryan Kelly, former All-American lacrosse player at the University of North Carolina and current varsity head coach at Calvert Hall College, a private high school in Baltimore, says that pressure comes from peers, parents and from within the players themselves.

“Sometimes a young player will see what the veterans are capable of doing in the weight room and not realize that it took them three years of hard training to get there,” says Kelly. “Then they look for a quick fix.” 

Under pressure to perform at a higher level, the four most common choices for athletes are steroids, stimulants, supplements and alcohol. They are outlined below.

Supplements

Athletes often turn to nutritional supplements in an attempt to get what they need to meet the demands of intense training and competition. The most common supplements used are protein shakes, nutrition bars, sports recovery drinks and meal replacements. According to Wade Harmon, Baltimore Ravens tight ends coach, protein shakes and recovery drinks are readily available for players after practices and games to speed the recovery process.

Like all NFL teams, the Ravens rely on products that have been approved by the NFL as part of their Supplement Certification Program. Coach Harmon says that athletes trust certified supplements and rely on those products to help prevent them from inadvertently ingesting a banned substance.
Currently, only EAS (Experimental Applied Sciences) has met the strict criteria set by the NFL. Until recently it had been virtually impossible to determine if the products actually contained what was on the label.

According to Nancy Clark, author and renowned sports nutritionist, the rise in popularity of supplements can be easily explained. “Convenience is the primary reason that athletes take supplements or meal replacements,” she says. And given the hectic schedules facing most families today, this may be the only excuse they need.

However, Clark quickly cautions those who use supplements regularly: “There is no substitute for a strong breakfast and daily nutrition plan built on a foundation of ‘real’ food.”

If you choose to add supplements and recovery drinks to your plan, stick to major brand names such as EAS, Met-Rx, Hammer, Clif and Twin Labs until industry standards are met by all manufacturers.

Did you know that October is FCA’s National One Way 2 Play—Drug Free month? OW2P is a systematic program developed to confront the problem of drug use among students. It involves instilling values, encouraging goal-setting and establishing accountability through positive peer pressure.

Every year, thousands of student-athletes make commitments to playing drug-free after attending OW2P rallies and assemblies.

For more information or to make a OW2P drug-free commitment, visit
ow2p.org.
Alcohol
It may seem obvious, but the use of alcohol is of notable concern. The sports culture seems to revolve around alcohol as beer ads bombard fans and athletes during every contest. But according to Frank Uryasz, president of the National Center for Drug Free Sport, an athlete’s choice to avoid alcohol is a positive decision. He states that it is “one of the most significant ways
to guarantee that you are going to be a better athlete than your
opponent.”

Many athletes have no idea that their use of alcohol actually prevents them from experiencing their best performance on the field. What’s more is that the effect of alcohol on performance can extend several days. Consuming five or more alcoholic beverages in one night can negatively affect your athletic
performance for three days. Two consecutive nights of this will hinder your performance for up to five days!
Steroids
The use of steroids is illegal and barred from all major sports. Anabolic steroids are the synthetic derivatives of the naturally occurring male hormone testosterone, which promotes muscle and bone growth. Athletes take them primarily to increase muscle mass, strength and speed.

The behavioral and physical health risks of illegal steroid use include…

• severe mood swings, from extreme irritability and aggression to depression.
• baldness and acne.
• sterility.
• elevated cholesterol levels.
• liver tumors and cancer.
• high blood pressure.
• heart attacks and strokes.
• weakened tendons.


The Lord’s Way!
For the Christian competitor, this presents an incredible opportunity to demonstrate that playing the Lord’s way actually works. Those who excel in their sport through personal sacrifice, disciplined training and nutrition, mental focus and unwavering belief will own the platform to give God the glory. It is time for a new generation of athletes to emerge who play for a higher purpose—athletes who refuse to cheat, cut corners or choose their own way. The FCA Competitor’s Creed states: “My body is the temple of Jesus Christ. I protect it from within and without. Nothing enters my body that does not honor the living God. My sweat is an offering to my Master. My soreness is a sacrifice to my Savior.” This part of the Creed sits at the heart of the FCA One Way 2 Play—Drug Free program. There is only one way to truly win on the field and in life, and that way is drug-free.
Stimulants
The use of stimulants in an attempt to improve performance is banned by every major sports governing body. Many stimulants, such as cocaine, are extremely addictive, as well as illegal. Others, such as ephedrine, have been recently banned due to the deaths of several professional athletes.

Today’s more popular and accepted use of stimulants comes in the form of energy drinks. While these drinks may appear to be safe, they come with their own set of risks, especially for high school and college athletes:

1. The high doses of caffeine (a diuretic) when combined with sweating and fluid loss during exercise or competition can cause dehydration and muscle cramping.

2. Increased heart rate and blood pressure can over-stimulate your nervous system and make you lose focus and become jittery.

3. The high sugar content can prevent the uptake of fluids during training and competition.

4. Performance can fall when you crash from the sugar and caffeine boost. You will have slower reaction time and reduced strength and focus.

 

*For more stories about faith and sport, visit www.sharingthevictory.com, the official magazine of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.