Jan 29, 2015
Something In The Water

By Mike Phelps

Vitaminwater and its parent company, Coca-Cola, made headlines recently after a report surfaced alleging that six of the brand’s flavors could result in a positive banned-substances test under NCAA rules. As an NCAA corporate sponsor, the allegations against Vitaminwater were particularly troubling for both the company and the NCAA and caught the attention of college athletic departments across the country. After that initial report, however, the NCAA quickly issued a correction. But confusion remains for many.

In the wake of the initial reports published the second week in February, the NCAA released a statement which attempted to set the record straight on the relationship between the NCAA and Vitaminwater products in question. The NCAA’s statement contends that normal daily consumption of any and all of the Vitaminwater varieties will not place a student-athlete at risk for a positive test and that initial reports were overblown.

It was initially reported that NCAA student-athletes risked testing positive for banned substances by consuming one of six different Vitaminwater flavors: Rescue, Energy, B-relaxed, Vital-T, Balance, and Power-C. According to AdAge.com, Rescue and Energy both contain caffeine or guarana-seed extract, while the other four flavors include substances such as taurine, L-theanine, green-tea extract, and glucosamine.

The NCAA’s statement, however, contends that only five flavors could be viewed as problematic, with only two (Energy and Rescue) containing ingredients–caffeine and guarana-seed extract–that are included on the NCAA’s list of banned substances and could produce a positive test. The other three (Power-C, B-Relaxed, and Balance) merely contain ingredients that are impermissible under NCAA extra benefit rules. This means what while a school can not provide these flavors to its student-athletes, student’s may purchase them on their own without any risk.

From the NCAA statement:

“Eight of the varieties, including Revive, the only NCAA-branded variety featured at NCAA Championships, contain no impermissible or banned substances and may be provided by member institutions to student-athletes.

Three Vitaminwater varieties (Power-C, B-Relaxed, and Balance) contain ingredients that categorize them as impermissible under NCAA extra benefit rules. As such, schools cannot provide these varieties to student-athletes as a nutritional supplement, but they can be purchased and consumed by student-athletes on their own without any risk to their NCAA eligibility.

Two Vitaminwater varieties, Energy and Rescue, contain an ingredient or ingredients–caffeine and guarana seed extract (a caffeine source)–that are included on the NCAA’s drug-testing list of banned substances. The NCAA places a limit on the amount of caffeine that can be legally found in the urine of a student-athlete. This level was set to allow ordinary consumption of caffeine-containing beverages, such as cola, tea or coffee. Vitaminwater Energy and Vitaminwater Rescue contain low levels of caffeine. To put it in perspective, an average sized healthy man would have to drink ten 20 oz. bottles of Vitaminwater Energy or Rescue within several hours of competition to reach the level that could potentially create a positive NCAA urine test.”

So while Rescue and Energy do contain banned ingredients, a near-impossible amount of the beverage would have to be consumed in a short period of time to result in a positive test. A graphic provided by Drug Free Sport details those flavors that would result in a positive test. It can be seen at CNBC.com.

Despite the NCAA’s clarification statement, some schools, such as the University of Kansas, have removed the six flavors in question from vending machines in their athletic departments. In a story published in The University Daily Kansan, Associate Athletics Director Jim Marchiony said the removal of the flavors was an easy decision.

“It was a simple decision because it has impermissible contents,” Marchiony said. “The best way to prevent it is to not bring the items into an area where they can inadvertently get it.”

Mike Phelps is an Assistant Editor at Training & Conditioning.

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