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Supplements

Q. I play adult league tennis and love it! I recently read something about this supplement people take to help improve the eyes capturing the ball faster. I lost the article. I think it was in this month's Tennis Magazine. Can you help me?

A. Lutein, an antioxidant stored in eye tissue, was probably what was highlighted as the “new nutrient” for the eye. Lutein has recently been found to decrease macular degeneration – a condition where the retina of the eye begins to break down. Lutein is found in many foods that also serve as good sources of Vitamin A, another nutrient that plays an important role in vision. Lutein is found in especially high levels in kale, broccoli, oranges and eggs. Many multi-vitamins now contain lutein, although a recommended daily value has not yet been established for this nutrient.

Additionally, deficiencies of Vitamin A can decrease eyesight acuity and general eye health. Vitamin A is found naturally in deep greens and bright orange, red, and yellow vegetables – broccoli, spinach, carrots, red and yellow peppers, tomatoes. Fortified sources of Vitamin A include fortified milk and butter. Taking a well-balanced multivitamin that does not exceed 100% of the Daily Value for nutrients should help to ensure Vitamin A adequacy.

For more information on macular degeneration and other eye conditions visit the website for the Cleveland Clinic’s Cole Eye Institute - http://www.clevelandclinic.org/eye/patient_info/diseases.asp.

Q. Can you please list the banned substances/supplements for me? I train several juniors and they want to take some nutritional supplements. Along with the WADA list, are there any other nutritional supplements that are banned (glutamine, creatine, etc.). Please send some information so I can inform these young athletes and their families.

Thank you for your questions - they are good ones and ones that are important for all tennis players. I will refer you to the ITF’s Anti-Doping website for much of the information you will need.

Starting on January 1, 2007 the ITF will oversee the anti-doping efforts for the ATP, WTA and junior events. According to the Tennis Anti-Doping Program rules, any player who enters or participates in a Competition, Event or activity organized, sanctioned or recognized by the ITF or who has an ATP Tour or WTA Tour ranking shall be bound by and shall comply with all of the provisions of this program. The banned list that serves as the basis for the Tennis Anti-Doping Program has been created by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

Again, I refer you to the ITF’s Ant-Doping website to access all information related t the Tennis Anti-Doping Program, including a link to the banned list, FAQs, and information on Therapeutic Use Exemptions for players who must take banned substances to treat documented medical conditions.

As for using specific supplements like creatine, the policy of the USTA is that athletes are responsible for everything they put into their body. We do not recommend players take any supplements. On the surface, many supplements are legal, but there are some important words of caution you should note. In 2001, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) conducted an analysis of 634 supplements worldwide. These supplements were purchased in nutritional supplement stores much like the ones you see in most shopping malls today.

From these supplements, nearly 15% were found to contain substances that were not listed on the product label yet would have resulted in a positive drug test had a player consumed it. In the United States, the percentage of seemingly “legal” supplements that were tainted with banned substances reached almost 19%. So this is something to think about and consider when deciding whether to add a supplement to your diet.

One recommendation is to ask a representative of the company you are purchasing a supplement from to issue a statement of purity stating the product you are taking is free of banned substances as described by the WADA Anti-Doping code. If they are un-willing to do that ask yourself why. Remember, the athlete is responsible for everything that goes into his or her body, whether it is labeled correctly on the supplement’s packaging or not.

Q. Can you please list the banned substances/ supplements for me? I train several Juniors and they want to take some nutritional supplements. Along with the WADA list, are there any other nutritional supplements that are banned (glutamine, creatine, etc.). Please send this info to me so I can inform these young athletes and their families.

How much are the sports enhancement drugs, like the ones we see in supplement stores are the players taking and what is the ATP and the WTA doing to watch over the players to make sure that no illegal drugs are being taken?

A. The WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) banned substance list is the gold standard on which drug testing in tennis is based. This list is followed by the ITF (which is taking over drug testing at ATP sanctioned events) and the US Anti-Doping Agency and highlights the substances that are presently banned from competition and training.

The question you ask about supplements purchased from a store is a good one - many of these substances are not on the banned list and there are numerous claims (many made by the manufacturers) that state how performance can be improved. The thing to realize is while the supplement itself may not be banned, you have to ask what else is in the bottle that is not listed on the label.

A study done several years ago by the International Olympic Committee showed that of 634 supplements randomly selected from around the world, 15% of them contained substances that were not listed on the label and would have caused a positive drug test if a player had taken the supplement and subsequently been tested. Of the supplements tested from the United States, 18% were found to contain banned substances that were not listed on the labels.

The USTA does not advocate supplement use simply because of the risks involved and the potentially negative consequences that could result - a first offense for using a banned substance is a 2-year suspension from tennis and ignorance/ not knowing you took a tainted supplement is not an excuse.

A good resource to look at for information on supplements is the Australian Institute of Sport Nutrition website. Here they break supplements down into four categories:

A. "Legal supplements" that provide a useful and timely source of energy and nutrients to a player and for which scientific evidence exists suggesting they could help athletic performance.

B. Supplements for which there is no conclusive evidence that they enhance athletic performance, but remain of interest.

C. "Legal supplements" for which there is no evidence exists that suggests they could benefit athletic performance.

D. Banned substances not permitted for use by athletes.

Testing is regularly conducted at ATP and WTA events and in the past year several players have been banned from tennis. Mariano Puerta from Argentina, for example, tested positive for an amphetamine/ stimulant and was banned from tennis for 8 years, as this was a second offense.

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