There is an enormous amount of
herbs and spices that go into sports teams just because people think they are
going to help.
The fifth term of reference for this inquiry refers to 'related
matters'. This chapter discusses:
- the need for further information about the practice of sports
- the use of supplements; and
- life after sport.
The need for further information about the practice of sports science
In its submission to this inquiry, the Council of Heads of Exercise,
Sport and Movement Sciences (CHESMS) noted that the data on the scope of sports
science in Australia is unreliable. It submitted that the committee should
endeavour to obtain more data on the number of sports scientists operating in
Australia and 'their pattern of employment now and into the future'.
CHESMS claimed the information is necessary before the committee can make
recommendations that are 'commensurate with the scale and nature' of the
Senator Richard Di Natale has relied on Exercise & Sports Science
Australia's (ESSA) estimates about the size of the profession in Australia.
The Senator notes that ESSA has commissioned a sports science workforce
audit in order to obtain more information about the scope of the profession,
and believes that this will be useful for the Department of Regional Australia,
Local Government, Arts and Sport (DRALGAS) in its consideration of their
The use of supplements
Several submissions focused largely, or at least in part, on doping and
the use of supplements in sport and offered recommendations on how a national
approach to these issues could be developed. This evidence falls outside of the
terms of reference for the inquiry.
At the public hearing, however, a recurring theme was the need for
supplement use to be evidence-based. Several witnesses, including medical and
sports science practitioners, queried the benefit that supplements provide, or
advised the committee that supplements should only be considered one tool in
the arsenal of sports scientists. Professor Kevin Thompson argued that:
One thing that I think we need to really appreciate is the
evidence base, and we need to talk about this a lot more in the media. We need
experts coming forward to say, 'There is not the evidence base that supplements
actually improve performance or that the performance improvements are
worthwhile.' It is a very expensive way of living, spending money on
supplements which have no evidence base and potentially might have risks as
well. As I said earlier, a sports scientist should be advising an athlete about
the evidence base and whether perhaps a change to training would provide better
benefit than, for example, taking a supplement. There are many ways in which
performance is enhanced and injuries are reduced in sport. Supplements are one
part, but only one part.
DRALGAS provided a paper, prepared by the Department of Health and
Ageing, to the committee on the health effects of new performance- and image‑enhancing
drugs in sport (see Appendix 1). This paper examines what is known about the
health effects of new drugs in sport.
Dr Hugh Seward, Chief Executive of the Australian Football League
Medical Officers Association (AFLMOA), suggested to the committee that in the
case of the Australian Football League (AFL): 'there are a large number of AFL
clubs that do not participate greatly in supplements and a small number that
do. There is quite a variation across that code'.
He added: 'there is no role for AFL players to be guinea pigs or the subject of
research to trial some of these drugs'.
Dr Seward emphasised that good nutrition should be employed rather than
Diet and nutrition are absolutely essential, and clubs are
well placed to advise their players in the correct nutrition. Most clubs
actually have kitchens and chefs available at the AFL level to provide them
with that. To suggest that the answer for the budding athlete or the aspiring
footballer is to take protein supplements and not to have a good diet, is
Dr Peter Larkins told the committee:
... there are a lot of products that are being used that
probably have no performance benefit but athletes are taking them, because
someone said it will help them sleep better or help their muscle soreness go
away. That is quite understandable for an athlete to want to get that edge but,
as I said, it leads to whole pharmacopoeia of things that are out there that
have got no good studies.
AIS Supplement Group Classification
Dr Seward indicated to the committee that the AFLMOA is involved in a
review aimed at providing a list of approved supplements for use by AFL teams.
Senator Di Natale notes the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS)
Supplement Group Classification System and recommends that, where supplements
are to be used, consideration be given by national sporting organisations,
including those organisations represented by the Coalition of Major Professional
and Participation Sports (COMPPS), to only permit the use of supplements
classified as Group A by the AIS Sports Supplement Program.
These are supplements that:
- provide a useful and timely source of energy or nutrients in the
athlete’s diet; or
- have been shown in scientific trials to benefit performance, when
used according to a specific protocol in a specific situation in sport.
This approach would exclude use of supplements:
- considered for provision to AIS athletes only under a research
protocol or clinical monitoring activity (Group B);
- which have little proof of beneficial effects and which are not
provided to AIS athletes (Group C);
- which should not be used by AIS athletes (Group D); and
- which fall outside of these categories.
Evidence of use of supplements outside those in Group A should result in
penalties, including suspensions, delisting or banning for players and moves to
instigate disciplinary proceedings by the accreditation body for sports
scientists. By only permitting use of supplements which have proven
efficacy, this approach recognises the need to protect athlete health and
welfare and the integrity of sport.
8.13 Senator Di Natale recommends that where supplements
are used within national sporting organisations, those organisations consider
encouraging only the use of supplements classified as Group A in the Australian
Institute of Sport Sports Supplement Program.
Central registers of supplements
At the public hearing the committee raised the concept of central
registers of supplements used by clubs. Mr Malcolm Speed, Executive Director at
COMPPS, confirmed that reporting on supplement use is a feature of the AIS
Principles and so registers within clubs can be expected where they do not
The committee asked whether further consideration might be given to
central registers of supplement programs within codes. Mr Speed advised that:
I think it is under discussion with some of the codes. In any
event, I am happy to take it back, test it and suggest it, and to see whether
they are in fact doing it and, if not, whether they are prepared to do it. I
think it is a good suggestion.
Senator Di Natale is of the view that establishing central registers of
supplements in use by teams/clubs and making this information publicly
available would promote a level playing field and discourage behaviour that
might seek to push legal or ethical boundaries.
8.16 Senator Di Natale recommends that national sporting
- implementing central registers of supplements in use by
- making this information publicly available.
This information would be highly useful for the independent advisory
group recommended by Senator Di Natale in chapter 6 of this report (see
recommendation 8), and would promote transparency.
Life after sport
Dr Seward, Chief Executive of the AFLMOA, spoke of concern:
... within the AFL and certainly from the AFL Players
Association that there is insufficient allocation of time to live a real life,
to prepare yourself for the life after football, to undertake a university
course or an apprenticeship—to try and schedule time and restrict time for
those players so that they can in fact do that.
The idea that there is too much 'football training and not enough life
is of concern to the committee. Mr Matthew Finnis, Director of the Australian
Athletes' Alliance (AAA), told the committee that 'the balance around an
athlete's life is a significant one' for the AAA.
We read about a number of the negative situations, but I
believe that players who have a career in the AFL come out in general as young
men who are more mature by virtue of the experience and the people they meet.
Hopefully they have also got a start in a career beyond football. The earlier
we can convince them of the importance of that, the more successful that
transition will be. But it is a challenge, because these young men come in to
the game and they have been focussing on that career since they were six years
old, many of them. Their focus is on the next contract and the one after that.
Mr Finnis also argued that a broader sense of identity for athletes
beyond just their athletic identity is very important to developing the
capability to question and challenge cultures which they are exposed to.
He said that:
... one of our challenges is to ensure that players have a
deeper understanding of what loyalty means, and when loyalty is owed, and
perhaps when loyalty has been breached. It is going to be important when
encouraging people to speak up to ensure that their loyalty is not just to
their club and their prospects of winning but to the game. That loyalty to the
game has a longer term than any short-term focus on winning. This is a
long-term play in terms of changing this kind of culture. I think we have all
received a wake-up call as to what is required.
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