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  1. #1
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    New Rulebook Bans Caffeine For High School Athletes

    The NorCal High School Mountain Bike League (the League), which recently released a new rulebook for its 2008 racing season, is banning the consumption of caffeine at their competitions. This progressive stance is motivated by concerns for high school athletes’ health, as well as in response to a tremendous surge of new caffeinated energy products and related marketing seen thus far in the 2000’s.

    Caffeine is a dependency-forming stimulant that is being marketed as if it is totally harmless; it is also being marketed for its performance enhancing qualities. Much of this marketing is directed towards teens and young adults. Over the past few years, the League has seen an increase in caffeine usage amongst its athletes; some even strategizing with timed consumption of caffeinated products on the final lap of the race. As an organization dedicated to positive youth development and the promotion of cycling as a sport, this is a performance-enhancement-based mentality the League would like to nip in the bud.

    There are also health-related concerns associated with teenagers’ caffeine consumption. Dr. Richard Stein, director of preventative cardiology at New York's Beth Israel Medical Center and a representative for the American Heart Association. said, "What five years ago was considered outrageous doses of caffeine is now well within the range of expected doses. We will soon find out the effects of prolonged usage in high doses starting at an early age. In the past, that's always been a formula for poor health and mental outcomes." The bottom line is that research has yet to demonstrate that a high amount of caffeine intake is safe for young people.

    For Matt Fritzinger, League founder and director, “the conversation began when I was approached for the second time by ‘Brand X’. ‘Brand X’ said themselves that youth, originally, were not in their marketing plan – but that ‘Brand Y’ (a leading coffee shop franchise) changed their minds. The marketing representative made it clear, they wanted “product in hand.” I realized this is a lot like the cigarette industry was; they get the free samples out there, and then they can count on a percentage of life-long addicts. Though less harmful than cigarettes, the strategy is the same.”

    “Over the next couple years I spoke with many high school athletes and coaches. Some athletes admitted they were already ‘addicted’ to certain energy drinks, and I found that coaches were supportive of the ban. At the 2007 coaches conference we brought up the idea and found that we had tremendous support, and since then other audiences have met the idea with standing ovations.”

    “There have been questions about enforcement. It’s true that we do not have a test, but nor can we afford a test for steroids or EPO. However, we have a 3-to-1 ratio of dedicated adults working with the athletes and with good coaching and education kids usually make the right decisions. On the other hand, those who try to get a boost, might get penalized if we find the wrong products during our random pocket-checks.”

    Gurana Root, Taurine and Creatine have also been banned. Text of the entire rulebook is available at www.norcalmtb.org/race/rules.htm

    The League’s 2008 race season commences March 2nd near Monterey. League events include a Coaches Training Conference, winter and summer riding camps, and the six-race series. Matt Fritzinger founded The NorCal High School Mountain Bike Racing League in 2001. The League is a non-profit organization open to students from both public and private schools. The League has turned mountain biking into a high school sport which currently has 40 participating high schools and has provided coaching and camaraderie to over 800 students.

  2. #2
    Fat Guy Riding
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    The definition of irony:


  3. #3
    More Torque
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    Awesome!

  4. #4
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    So if creatine is also banned, in a sense they will not be allowed to eat meat either?

    "3. How can I get creatine naturally?

    In one form or another, creatine is normally obtained from the foods we eat.

    Dietary Creatine: Creatine can be directly obtained by eating sources of skeletal muscle, i.e. meat and fish. During the digestive process the creatine contained within meat and fish is directly released into the blood stream where it is transported to skeletal muscle."

  5. #5
    EastBaySteez
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    No Monsters before the races?!
    BULLSH!T

    How about you take away the coaches coffee, caffeinated soda's and their energy drinks.
    See how they like that.
    Gamut
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  6. #6
    Blanco
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    This is stupid. Kids are going to be pulled from competition for drinking a Coke?

    And we wonder why kids grow up with no respect for rules or authority...we are teaching them that rules are arbitrary, unenforceable things created by self-important moralists, not constraints that let us live together and keep us safe -- and, therefore, the only crime is getting caught.

    If the problem is marketing to kids, by all means pull the soda machines from the school, don't serve it for lunch, and don't let them sponsor schools or school activities. But that's a different problem.

  7. #7
    sunnyside up
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    That IS ironic

    Quote Originally Posted by jschwart73
    The definition of irony:
    Did the sidebar really serve up an ad for that beverage?



    I have to admit to mixed feelings about this ban. I think the point was more about product placement, spiked sugar water, and sportsmanship, but the whole enforcement thing has me really confused.

    Patty
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  8. #8
    sunnyside up
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    And, about those rules. . . http://www.norcalmtb.org/race/rules.pdf#page=4

    Why are there no consequences for failing to obey traffic laws? Of all the unhealthy behaviors, running a red light or stop sign seems pretty high up there in terms of risk of serious injury to self or others.
    "...So forget all your duties, oh yeah! Fat bottomed girls, they'll be riding today..." Freddie Mercury

  9. #9
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    It is meant to address an attitude toward the use

    of substances and materials used specifically for performance enhancement. The League choose to restrict the most obvious offending sorts of products. Meat or a piece of chocolate are not really issues. Food and nutrition are a different matter. A family's customs and diet are a different matter. What adults choose to drink is up to them. They are adults.

    What this confronts is the idea that taking something to enhance performance is not honored in this context. Train hard, eat well, hydrate, rest, race hard. There are no short cuts. There is no place for the substances at issue in minors, especially when used as tools in competition.

  10. #10
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    If you drink Coke because you like the taste then there is no problem... BUT when teenagers start saying stuff like "I need my morning Red Bull" than I would say we have a problem.

    And yes I believe with some kids (and they are kids) we are at that point.


    I hate to say that I agree with anymore rules telling us what to do or not to do, but... I do with this one.

  11. #11
    ol'guy who says hi &waves
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    What's a "pocket check"? I'm guessing looking through an athlete's possessions for some labeled container.

    With all the budget cuts to education, I doubt there will funds available to test the contents of water bottles.

    Maybe I can invent a test kit with cool light and orange safety glasses (ala CSI) to screen any suspicious substances..caffeinated or otherwise.

    Enough rules already.

    Educate and let Darwin sort it out.
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  12. #12
    Fat Guy Riding
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    Quote Originally Posted by knobbyknees
    Did the sidebar really serve up an ad for that beverage?



    I have to admit to mixed feelings about this ban. I think the point was more about product placement, spiked sugar water, and sportsmanship, but the whole enforcement thing has me really confused.

    Patty
    Yup, I laughed out loud and my wife looked at me funny.

  13. #13
    Fat Guy Riding
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    Oh, and this rule is exceptionally misguided. How about educating the athletes on the dangers of using too much caffeine instead of placing draconian rules that the kids are simply going to circumvent by pouring their Monster or Rockstar into a cup or opaque bottle and then run around behind coaches backs to drink.

    Are you banning Hammer Gel that has caffeine in it? A legitimate nutrition supplement that I bet a number of your racers use?

    One of the above posters got it right when they said "we are teaching them that rules are arbitrary, unenforceable things created by self-important moralists"

    I couldn't have said it better myself.

  14. #14
    JMH
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike
    of substances and materials used specifically for performance enhancement. The League choose to restrict the most obvious offending sorts of products. Meat or a piece of chocolate are not really issues. Food and nutrition are a different matter. A family's customs and diet are a different matter. What adults choose to drink is up to them. They are adults.

    What this confronts is the idea that taking something to enhance performance is not honored in this context. Train hard, eat well, hydrate, rest, race hard. There are no short cuts. There is no place for the substances at issue in minors, especially when used as tools in competition.
    Mike- I posted in the XC forum about this before I saw it here...

    I still support your efforts with this program, but I strongly disagree with you. There are many banned substances in the rulebook that actually enhance performance. Kids can still learn training and racing ethics by avoiding those substances. "Tools in competition?" Kids EVERYWHERE drink this crap regardless of whether the afternoon holds a MTB race or a gruelling 5 hour TV session.

    But by prohibiting Coke and RedBull, you are arbitrarily banning a non performance-enhancing substance and sending a HUGE mixed message to the kids. Roll models drink coffee and RedBull. Are they cheating? Is JHK less worthy of respect if you see him drink a Coke before a race? And if it's illegal at practice, does that make it "cheating" if the rider drinks a Coke at lunch?

    I think you have unfairly dumped yet another confusing and unfair WWJD moment on kids that don't need it.

    JMH

  15. #15
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    Can't agree with this one.

    So these things are only banned for the kids that actually get out and exercise? The fat lazy kids can drink all they want? Is it bad or isn't it? Seems pretty grey to me.

    Caffeine may have questionable value (though I have read studies that are pretty supportive of limited caffeine), but in my mind, Just Say No moralism has zero value. Rather than teaching the smart kids to take care of themselves and learn to moderate, this rule assumes that all kids are stupid and gives none of them the skill set they will need to make smart choices later.

    The temptation to dope/cheat does exist in the real world and to send young adults out into this, without the ability to intelligently evaluate their options, is the real sin. Educate, don't mandate.
    I only attempt to change the world in the appropriate World-Changing venues and forums.

  16. #16
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    I ride with a kid (High School racer) who slams a Red Bull on his last lap fairly often. Can't say I'd do it, but that's his call, he knows his body. I don't think it's good for 15 yr olds to be slugging liquid crank and pumping their hearts through thier chests.
    But, they're athletes, and they will try to get around the rule. Let's hope the coaches and parents are going to help enforce this.
    On a side note, One of my high school friends died our senior year during a lacrossee game, he OD'd on caffeine and Ritalin. In front of his Mom and younger brother, just collapsed.
    Obviously the ban doesn't include ritalin, and I'm bringing something in from outside the conversation, but I'm making the point that young athletes are willing to put themselves (unknowingly) in harm's way just to keep the legs going.

  17. #17
    Fat Guy Riding
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    Quote Originally Posted by fritzaholic
    I ride with a kid (High School racer) who slams a Red Bull on his last lap fairly often. Can't say I'd do it, but that's his call, he knows his body. I don't think it's good for 15 yr olds to be slugging liquid crank and pumping their hearts through thier chests.
    But, they're athletes, and they will try to get around the rule. Let's hope the coaches and parents are going to help enforce this.
    On a side note, One of my high school friends died our senior year during a lacrossee game, he OD'd on caffeine and Ritalin. In front of his Mom and younger brother, just collapsed.
    Obviously the ban doesn't include ritalin, and I'm bringing something in from outside the conversation, but I'm making the point that young athletes are willing to put themselves (unknowingly) in harm's way just to keep the legs going.
    Liquid crank? Seriously?

  18. #18
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    I don't know that it is a bad idea to ban it. Excessive consumption of caffeine is not good, and it sets a precedence to not using drugs to enhance performance. At the end of the day caffeine is a drug and is being used as one by many people. Just because it is legal doesn't mean it should be used and abused. Would be be having this discussion if the ban concerned psuedrophedrine?

    It appears that a lot of the responses here are in part reactions that people based on their own addiction to caffeine, whether through soda, coffee, or the new caffeine drinks. I know I used to worship my mocha but had to stop as part of loosing weight.
    Riding slowly since 1977.

  19. #19
    Shocks?, Pegs?... Lucky!
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    Quote Originally Posted by jschwart73
    Liquid crank? Seriously?
    I would like to clarify...
    Liquid Crank referring to Redbull, Monster, RockStar, G Unit Energy drink, Jagermeister, and anything else that heps you up.

  20. #20
    Lusus Naturae
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    Haha that Pepsi ad is on my page right now, showing up right next to the attached picture of the Pepsi ad. Hillarious. I hate Pepsi anyway, their stuff is complete crap.

    I dont think banning the stuff will really work. However, NOT letting large soda companies influence children at school in a closed environment where they have no choice but to consume should be persued. I think there was a documentary made about corporations buying exclusive rights to have their products (soda vending machines, for example) sold at a school. Thats when it really goes too far.

    Kids should have the right to drink highly sugar-ated and caffeinated drinks if that is what they want to do. Its up to the parents to properly educate them on the risks involved. Coaches may be able to make rules about what type of substance should be avoided at sporting events but unless these are illegal products it will be difficult to enforce.

  21. #21
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    I'm not up on the state of the art of HS sports. Is it banned in other sports?

    In general it's legal, so you shouldn't be able to ban it. I might quit the league over it if I were affected. Caffeine is a human right, as far as I'm concerned.

    I'm not advocating it in any way and I know a 40 of Rockstar isn't good for anyone, let alone a HS athlete, but there's nothing wrong with getting an iced mocha at Starby's or a Coke at McD's on the way to an event.

    OTOH, when someone accuses the race winner of drinking a glass of iced tea out of spite, it's going to suck for everyone.

    Banning without a solid testing method will leave you open to all kinds of trouble.

  22. #22
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    Defining a limit is hardly arbitrary.

    to suggest that is to fail to appreciate that a line must be drawn SOMEWHERE. This has been done thoughtfully by a panel of coaches with many years of experience in sports and managing teens and teen programs.

    Part of the challenge here is that you only see the end result. There is nothing posted here so far that the panel did not say out loud numerous times in far more elaborate and colorful ways. That they are accurate, well informed, or applicable to the issue did not exclude them from discussion; are all valid perspectives.

    It might be worth noting that a prominent support of the League and numerous teams is Clif Bar and they will not sell or donate any products with Caffeine. As a major sports food producer such a statement is hard to ignore. If you have ever had dealings with Clif or spent time with Gary Peterson or his staff they are truly great people.

    What other kids do one their sofas is not important. What our participants do in their own lives, as long as it is not detrimental to our other members is up to them. However, what they do when they are within the League and at League events is at issue and is being clearly defined. There is nothing confusing about it. It is just like house rules when my son's friends visit.

    Enforcement is a problematic issue. As is said about the internet it is only a matter of time when people disagree that one side accuses the other of being a nazi. We got to draconian already but I'll let that impassioned volley pass. What it reveals is a general lack of familiarity with the personality of the NorCal League.

    What the League is asked to manage is competition within an adolescent population where physical and emotional behaviors are in rapid flux and development. What is always kept in mind is that this is work with kids and kids make mistakes. How one manages this sort of event is critical. Mistakes are opportunities to shape behavior through education and support. As such, complications and difficulties are handled with a pretty deft, generous, and gracious hand. That does not mean that it is not firm when needed.

    A League of this size is unique as its it's character. The growth over the last years has been phenomenal ; from 78 in 2002 to nearly 500 in 2008. As such the intensity of the experience with teens in competition is hard to appreciate from the outside. New participants usually take some time to appreciate the gracious nature of the League hand. The greatest challenges tend to come from athletes and coaches and parents who have come from NORBA type environments. They have found that only the most aggressive and persistent presence will guarantee their kids a fair shake in a gray area in that venue. You can see them lingering and looming around the League tent at races like Little League parents (or Hockey parents if you are Canadian.) Usually by about the 3rd race they are relaxed and smiling with the rest of us. They have learned how much the League cares and how careful the League is.

    These rules give us a framework. The League doesn't have spies, or sophisticated screening. We have only the honor and goodwill we have created and worked hard to maintain. Spot checks will be done only if only to remind us all that we have a standard or something really looks out of whack. Somehow in all of this reaction to the totalitarian nature of restricting food this was lost:
    "However, we have a 3-to-1 ratio of dedicated adults working with the athletes and with good coaching and education kids usually make the right decisions."

    I am not worried about this at all. There will be problems but they will be met with the customary grace and patience shown thus far.
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  23. #23
    Rb
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    This is pretty stupid.

    Isn't there also a rule that states any kid found to be riding illegal trails in their own free time, is subject to removal from their team?

    And now, if you're caught drinking a Red Bull before a race, you're banned from competition?

    Puh-lease.

    For a lot of these kids, riding their bikes is a way for them to obtain some form of 'freedom' (using the term loosely here...). Why not take the glass-is-half-full approach and think of all the 'drugs' they could be abusing, but aren't? Just let the kids ride their bikes. That's what it's all about. Cut the crap.

    Quote Originally Posted by NorCal-Saint
    If you drink Coke because you like the taste then there is no problem... BUT when teenagers start saying stuff like "I need my morning Red Bull" than I would say we have a problem.

    And yes I believe with some kids (and they are kids) we are at that point.


    I hate to say that I agree with anymore rules telling us what to do or not to do, but... I do with this one.


    Kid: "Coach, you look kinda down. What's wrong?"
    Coach: "Well Jonny, I didn't have my coffee this morning."

    Stop sending mixed messages.
    :: wrenchscience ::

  24. #24
    Blanco
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike
    There is no place for the substances at issue in minors, especially when used as tools in competition.
    Don't break your arm patting yourself on the back for protecting those helpless, helpless kids that you've decided are simply too dumb to make their own decisions, and therefore need your benevolent guidance to survive childhood. Your desire to feel good about yourself causes every one of those kids to simultaneously laugh at you behind your back and resent you terribly.

    Besides, are you willing to take the coffee machine out of the teachers' lounge? Then you're a hypocrite too.

    I support a ban on commercial sponsorship of school activities of any type, whether they sell caffeinated beverages or not. But this is just stupid.

  25. #25
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    All I can say is that I'm glad I no longer have to abide by the league's rules. I agree that chugging a redbull is bad for you and won't actually increase your performance unless you haven't slept in days, but I think there should be an exception for the varsity category. I feel (and told Matt this in November) that varsity athletes should know (by virtue of the work taken to become a varsity racer) what is good for them, what is bad for them, and what will actually make them faster vs what companies say will make them faster. This goes for both the caffeine rule and the gear ratio rule, and possibly others.
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