What do you think is on the National Collegiate Athletic Association banned substances list? Steroids? Check. Cocaine? Check. Marijuana? Check. VitaminWater? Umm—check?
That’s a decision currently in debate among the NCAA substances panel, which is looking into the possibility that certain VitaminWater flavors, produced by a NCAA partner, Coca-Cola, may create an unfair advantage during collegiate games.
The NCAA has approved most flavors to date, though some are still left unapproved, including Power-C, Energy, Rescue, Vital-T and Balance. Because the products have not been approved, any detection of them in an athlete before a game or match will result in loss of eligibility.
Is this policy taking it too far? Is the NCAA still looking out for the well-being of its athletes and the sport, or has it stepped on the toes of the athletes’ freedom by telling them what they can and cannot eat and drink? How much more “Power,” “Energy,” and “Balance” do you really feel after gulping down a bottle of VitaminWater? That’s the question that has been running through the minds of many critics of the NCAA’s new look at popular beverages, especially after they signed a new partnership to serve VitaminWater on the sidelines of most championship games back in October.
Although the sideline branding may come across as hypocritical, David Klossner, the NCAA liaison to the Competitive Safeguards Committee, recently stated, “VitaminWater Revive (fruit punch) will be the only VitaminWater flavor supporting NCAA championships. VitaminWater Revive does not contain any NCAA impermissible or banned substances.”
Also, this review of soft drinks really isn’t all that new, and, in fact, all the flavors in, question would have disqualified athletes in the past due to their ingredients. For example, VitaminWater’s Energy flavor has 134 mcg/ml of caffeine and guarana, versus the minuscule amount of 15 mcg/ml allowed by the NCAA.
So, are the critics right? The consensus around Etown says that they are not.In fact, most student-athletes side with the NCAA about this issue.
“I think it’s good that the NCAA is strict about what athletes can put into their bodies, but it seems a little strong that something like a sports drink can affect your eligibility,” senior softball player Lauren Hoover said. “Even though it seems pretty strict, I don’t think the NCAA should change their policies because it keeps everyone safe and the playing field even.”
The feeling crosses over to men’s sports as well, as sophomore swimmer and staff writer for the Etownian, Tom Hagerty agreess. “I’m not opposed to what the NCAA is doing. I feel like they are considering everything and keeping the level of competition without compromising fairness.”
At best, the NCAA is attempting to keep athletes fair with as little chance of outside enhancement as possible. At worst, they’re cutting into beverage freedom and stripping away a possible choice at the vending machine. Either way, how hard is it to take flavored water out of your diet? Save your Jay Bucks and go fill up a water bottle with water.
We can’t forget that although VitaminWater has always been marketed as a sports drink, it is certainly not the first beverage to be impacted by the banned substances list.
To keep the games fair, the NCAA does have to explore all avenues and possibilities. So athletes, start drinking water. It’s cheaper, healthier for you, and overall,better for the environment. Who could complain about that?