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Drug Report Cautions on Creatine

August 26, 1998

ROME (AP) _ Legal muscle-builders, not banned substances, are a problem in Italian soccer and steps should be taken to curb their use, a report made public Wednesday said.

After hearing 33 witnesses, mostly Serie A players and trainers, Ugo Longo ended his two-week investigation for the Italian Olympic Committee’s (CONI) anti-drug commission without finding evidence of illegal drug use.

``Everyone I spoke to asked that we delve into the real problem: the use of substances that are not prohibited,″ said Longo, whose 50-page report was given to CONI president Mario Pescante. ``Our investigation has not found evidence of (drug use) in soccer.″

Several players told Longo that the non-prescription muscle-builder creatine, an amino acid powder, is given by their club doctors.

``Among the illustrious pharmacologists that I contacted, no one said this substance is good for you,″ Longo said. ``Everyone knows that certain dosages ... can improve athletes’ performances while putting their health at risk.″

He has suggested creatine be banned or restricted.

An American College of Sports Medicine panel earlier this summer told doctors, athletic trainers and researchers at its convention that there have been no significant health problems associated with the use of creatine.

``Nobody has shown it’s dangerous,″ said Aaron Sidner, a researcher at Oregon State.

However, scientists warned that no studies have been done on the long-range effects of the product, no one knows how it reacts with other muscle-building supplements and the quality of what a person can buy varies.

Creatine, which comes in the form of tablet or powder mixed with a drink, is sold at most health food stores. The substance replenishes energy in muscles, decreasing muscle fatigue in the process. It also increases body mass.

The health store industry hailed its arrival in 1992 as a breakthrough in nutritional supplements. Creatine and other supplements were seen as a alternatives to illegal steriods. The drug supplement industry is expected to be worth $12.3 billion by 2000, said Dr. Gary Wadler, a faculty member at New York University School of Medicine.

Creatine is used by many major league baseball players and thousands of college and high school athletes.

Prosecutors in Torino and Bologna are carrying out their own, separate inquiries. The Torino prosecutor, Raffaele Guariniello, met with the head of the Italian soccer players association Wednesday.

The union chief, Sergio Campana, told reporters that players erred by ``having had full confidence in the doctors. ... Soccer players in general blindly trust their club doctors. They have the right to know what it is they are taking and what the effects are _ and this probably does not happen.″

The investigations were triggered when AS Roma coach Zdenek Zeman expressed his ``amazement″ at the quick muscular development of some players.

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