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California supplements bill misleads consumers, CRN says

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger flexed his political muscle earlier this month when he signed SB 37, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Jackie Speier. This time, the supplements industry was the 98-pound weakling getting sand kicked in its face.

The bill prohibits high school athletes from using "specified dietary supplements"—namely, ephedra, DHEA or synephrine, also known as bitter orange. The bill also requires high school coaches to undergo training about the dangers of these substances, and athletes to sign a pledge not to use any banned substances.

"I'm delighted that the governor has recognized the pivotal role he can play in teaching teen athletes to avoid steroids and dangerous performance-enhancing dietary supplements," said Speier.

In September, as the bill was moving through the California legislature, the Council for Responsible Nutrition claimed the bill's intent and its actual consequences were far apart. The bill does not address "the most troubling performance-enhancing substances—like steroids or growth hormones," CRN said, noting that ephedra and DHEA are already on the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's banned substances list. "The industry would agree with [banning them]," said Steve Mister, CRN's president and chief executive.

CRN pushed to have the bill amended so that it would ban all substances on the USADA list, and leave legitimate dietary supplements alone.

"We were disappointed that the governor signed the bill," Mister said. "It's unfortunate that the legislature did not give the bill more careful consideration. … The sponsor repeatedly brought in people who talked about their children's awful experiences with illegal steroids. … This bill didn't address that. Those legislators were misled throughout the process."

Now, Mister said, the focus must be on making sure consumers are not also misled. "The way this bill is already being portrayed in the media is that California has passed a law that high-schoolers shouldn't take dietary supplements. Period. And that whole USADA piece is getting lost," he said. "We know that a multivitamin is a good thing. And there are high school kids who can benefit from calcium. We are concerned that they are going to be scared off from taking these mainstream supplements—even electrolyte replacement drinks or protein powders."

Mister said CRN is planning some outreach activities "so that school districts and high school coaches get the right message."

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