The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District board of education plans to adopt a policy prohibiting the use of androgenic and anabolic steroids among student athletes within the next few weeks.

After discussing the issue Thursday, November 3rd, school district officials will ask the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) — the state governing agency for middle school and high school athletics — to make clarifications on whether or not protein shakes are banned.

In May, the CIF mandated that all school districts participating in the federation adopt a policy as a condition of membership that prohibits the use and abuse of steroids by student athletes.

“The CIF is saying that participating schools must adopt a policy on steroids,” said Santa Monica-Malibu district assistant superintendent Mike Matthews.

“The CIF is taking a strong stand on the issue and this is a policy that every school district in California will adopt,” he said.

In addition to school districts adopting a formal policy, student athletes and their parents or guardians must sign an agreement that the athlete will abide by a school district prohibition on steroids.

The CIF also mandates that school districts cannot accept sponsorships from performance enhancing supplement manufacturers.

All coaches at CIF schools are barred from promoting steroids and performance-enhancing supplements, and must receive training about steroids by 2008.

Santa Monica-Malibu has written a draft policy and an accompanying list of regulations.

Students in middle school through high school will receive lessons on the effects of steroids as part of health, physical education, or drug education programs.

“Our policy says ‘every grade level every year,'” Matthews said, referring to the fact that students not on sports teams will also get lessons on steroids.

Board of education members agreed to hold approval of the steroid policy and its accompanying list of regulations until district staff can determine whether protein shakes are prohibited.

The confusion stems from the school district’s list of regulations, which states that:

n School personnel — including coaches — shall not sell, distribute, or promote to students performance-enhancing dietary supplements that promote muscle building.

n School personnel and coaches may provide only non-muscle-building nutritional supplements to student athletes for the purpose of providing additional calories and electrolytes.

n Permissible non-muscle-building nutritional supplements are identified according to the following classes: carbohydrate/ electrolyte drinks, energy bars, carbohydrate boosters, and vitamins and minerals.

“The list says ‘permissible non-muscle-building nutritional supplements’ and I don’t see protein shakes as an example,” said board member Oscar de la Torre. “I remember when I played football at Santa Monica High School, recommendations were that we get protein shakes.

“There is no problem with protein shakes, but would we prohibit them if a coach were to recommend an egg-based protein mix?”

De la Torre said he thinks protein shakes would be prohibited because nearly all protein shake labels say that protein builds muscles.

Board member Kathy Wisnicki said protein shakes could fall into the permissible “carbohydrate/ electrolyte” drink category or that maybe one ingredient in a specific protein shake would be prohibited.

Board member Jose Escarce believes that district regulations intend to prohibit protein shakes because the shakes “are widely promoted as muscle-building supplements.”

He said carbohydrate/electrolyte drinks and protein shakes are two different types of supplements.

“This is not an exhaustive list of what is permitted,” Matthews said. “There is a multitude of things that are allowed and what is encouraged is to not have the steroid type of items.”

Because the CIF has not commented on the banning of protein shakes, Matthews said district staff would ask CIF officials to define protein shakes and to give the school district recommendations on its use.

Under CIF bylaws and Santa Monica-Malibu policy, coaches are barred from recommending muscle-building nutritional supplements to student athletes but athletes could choose to eat or drink those supplements on their own.

In an effort to curb use and abuse by student athletes, Santa Monica-Malibu will post the following warning in every middle school and high school locker room:

“Use of steroids to increase strength or growth can cause serious health problems.

“Steroids can keep teenagers from growing to their full height; they can also cause heart disease, stroke, and damaged liver function.

“Men and women using steroids may develop fertility problems, personality changes, and acne. Men can also experience premature balding and development of breast tissue.

“These health hazards are in addition to the civil and criminal penalties for unauthorized sale, use, or exchange of anabolic steroids.”

Anabolic steroids come in two common forms — as pills or for injection, and injection carries the risk of HIV and Hepatitis B and C if needles are shared.

Other side effects of steroid use include rage, anger, hostility, depression, the development of cysts, oily scalp, male pattern baldness, excessive growth of body hair in women, and the shrinking of testicles in men.

In some cases, high profile athletes in various sports who have admitted to taking steroids died at ages 18 to 45 because of the side effects of the drugs.

Androgenic and anabolic steroids were previously sold as dietary supplements.

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