Teens hear mixed messages regarding muscle-building drug

By Danny Floh Back

Karen Cairns has a message for student athletes about using creatine: don’t even go there.

Controversy over the popular muscle-building supplement’s possible link to cancer has local institutions voicing a variety of opinions.

Cairns, the athletics director at Lisgar collegiate, says students at her school are encouraged to stay away from creatine.

“Especially as teachers, we recommend that students not even go there,” said Cairns.

Athletes claim creatine, mixed with water or juice, makes them stronger and enables them to work out longer.

A recent report issued by France’s food safety agency, says the use of creatine poses a potential risk of cancer, particularly with long-term use.

However, the report also says that potential risks are insufficiently evaluated.

“We won’t put kids on a program with creatine. More research on this issue has to be done,” said Cairns.

The trainers of the Ottawa 67’s hockey club offer a different opinion.

Head trainer Byron Wright is responsible for a whole team of amateur athletes, many of whom are teenagers.

On his recommendation, many of the 67’s players take creatine once a day after practice.

“I haven’t seen any of my players having any side effects taking it,” said Wright.

Wright says he has a hard time believing the study linking creatine to cancer is substantial.

“Part of me thinks it is just a hoax,” he said.

“I’d like to do research on it to find out where they got this information.”

But some of the 67’s are not so quick to dismiss the possibility of the supplement being hazardous to their health.

“At first, I was going to take it,” said 67’s goalie John Ceci.

“Then, I wasn’t too keen after I learned some studies of it causing cancer. So right now, I am just off it until I feel more comfortable and then I’ll hopefully take it in the future.”

Nineteen-year-old defenceman Luke Sellers says despite the potential benefits to his career and future, he wants to know more about creatine to avoid possibly jeopardizing his health.

“I think before I start up again I will look into it a bit more just to find out the truth to the articles,” said Sellers.

Rick Payant, the official supplement sponsor of the 67’s,and owner of two Natural Food Pantry stores, gives each of the players whatever supplements they feel they need to be better hockey players.

He says if teenagers are into bodybuilding, or playing football or hockey, they should be using creatine.

“I don’t see any problems with creatine with teenagers. It is a naturally occurring substance in our bodies,” said Payant.

Even though Payant is a creatine advocate, Steve Kenny, athletics director at Immaculata high school says stores that sell supplements like Payant’s are part of the problem.

He says creatine is too easily available to teenagers.

“The kids think that if the government is allowing it to be available, it must be okay,” said Kenny.

Kenny teaches a Grade 11 class at Immaculata called Fit for Life.

It centres on weight training, running, personal fitness, nutrition and supplementation.

“I knew that creatine would come up in this class with the kids. We talked about chemicals and the body and what happens when they mix,” said Kenny.

Kenny’s approach to teaching teenagers about creatine is different from that of Cairns’ or the 67’s.

“I put the facts right in front of them,” said Kenny.

“I let them know what it does and have them make informed decisions for themselves.”