Editorial: For the Sport of It – Again

By Len Monheit

As we wrestle with the implications of the US election results, which will undoubtedly increase pressure on industry and DSHEA itself, there’s another sub-plot appearing on the horizon again with numerous headlines dealing with the use of supplements by athletes. In the case of the past week or so, it’s interesting to note that while there have been the usual incidences of positive doping tests being associated with supplement use, there have actually been a few positive stories in this sector, first, with professional basketball interest in supporting athletes’ consumption of EAS NFL/NSF-certified products, and secondly, with a professional football player attributing his quick come-back after injury to his use of supplements, once again, those certified as causing no or minimal risk for causing a doping positive.

Going back into the context of election results, at perhaps no time has it been more important for industry to engage in outreach through education, substantiation and the cultivation of creative relationships that will provide some support when the inevitable pressure mounts. These relationships also represent the ticket for industry to engage user groups that are non-traditional. Of these, the sports community remains one of the most appealing, despite the accusations we have become used to – that supplements often are the cause of positive doping results. The reason for this community’s appeal has been and remains its desire, as a high performing community, to seek out and consume effective products that reduce system wear, bolster immunity, promote joint health, assist with weight management and supplement the diet with important nutrients. (Yes, there are those whom have been shown to push the envelope illegally. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but for the majority seeking the very benefits we tout, doesn’t this then represent a model, ‘motivated’ community and target categories to which we already, as an industry, are giving significant attention and resources, and for which we predict some of the largest growth? Does it not behoove us then, to understand how this community works and thinks, to collaborate for research, and to do everything in our power to align, where possible, our objectives? While I can understand that for many, this is not a core market, I’m a bit challenged by those who refuse to see any potential in this dialogue and partnering potential.

Any industry needs allies and supporters – traditional and not. Blind support, this time around, and in the foreseeable future, might be tough to come by, there’s going to have to be a give-get exchange. On our part, as an industry, we’ll have to give some commitment to any potential allies, and in some cases, the cost will be high. In the case of the sports nutrition market, many of our leading companies already have a product and market commitment – they’re already vested in the sector; they’re certainly vested in the health condition. Seems like reasonable risk to me.

To close, it’s gratifying to see both the positive and negative in the media, where only the sensationally negative typically gets exposure. Without constructive action on our part, and yes, commitment, this week’s positives will turn out to be only an anomaly.

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