MENOMONIE, Wis. — Ten Menomonie High School multi-sport athletes discovered that a pre-workout energy drink they consumed this week will cost them the first three games of the WIAA football season.
Two local coaches said monitoring for violations like this is nearly impossible without a lot of help from the athletes themselves.
The drink, called C4 Extreme, contains a banned substance called Synephrine HCL, a potent adrenergic stimulator.
According to bodybuilding.com, Synephrine HCL, “augments energy levels and ATP synthesis” and is structurally similar to Ephedra. It goes on to say, “The compound enhances adrenaline stimulation and promotes weight loss by amplifying fat burning, metabolism, and thermogenesis.”
Logan coach Casey Knoble said that coaches received a “large list” of banned substances from the WIAA at the last annual meeting.
Menomonie activities director Bart Boettcher said while Synephrine HCL is not specifically listed as a banned substance under the school’s code, it is on the list distributed by the WIAA and falls under the category of performance enhancing drugs and carries the same punishments as alcohol or tobacco consumption.
“I had a tip from the WIAA to investigate,” Boettcher said. “I went right down to the weight room and met with (football) coach (Joe) LaBuda, and we asked, and they said ‘Yeah’ and even showed us. Our kids didn’t think there was anything wrong with it. … They said they were told that this was the best stuff by a GNC employee.”
“I feel for them,” Boettcher added. “They were not aware that this was a banned substance. … When it happens, we’re going to enforce the code. There’s no hiding or getting around it.”
All 10 players are junior and seniors on the football team. Since football will be the first athletic season after receiving the suspension, they will not be permitted to play against Merrill, Chippewa Falls or Eau Claire Memorial.
Knoble said that the philosophy that he and his staff follow is to avoid energy drinks.
“We’ve been to a lot of clinics about this, and we really try to push kids away from them,” he said. “If it’s a matter of getting more protein, they can get more by eating another peanut butter sandwich.”
West Salem coach Wayne Sackett said that the issue is discussed at general sports meetings that begin each season.
“We stress to parents that they need to be involved and know what their son or daughter is or isn’t doing from a nutritional standpoint,” Sackett said. “It’s hard to control as coaches, so we stress it with the parents and try to push good nutrition.”
Knoble said his players are good about discussing the possible use of such drinks with a member of the coaching staff.
“They usually bring it with them, and we can take a look at it,” he said.
While the situation is an unfortunate one for all involved, Boettcher said, “The health and safety of the athletes is the most important thing in the world. Ignorance is not an excuse.”
Said Wade Labecki, deputy director of the WIAA: “Many of the products available in your local store have a variety of ingredients and some of the ingredients are stimulants. Supplement ingredient lists can be very difficult to decipher as problematic ingredients can have multiple name variations.
“There are common names (synonyms) that are listed in dietary supplements for the same stimulant. It’s very possible that athletes are not aware of what’s actually in the product they’re taking and athletes should be careful with any product.”
Todd Sommerfeldt of the La Crosse Tribune contributed to this story.