Resource Exchange Center helps demystify supplement environment: Created a decade ago, the REC’s sole purpose is to help coaches, athletic trainers and other athletics department personnel, student-athletes, and parents pass safely through the minefield of dietary supplements and other drugs, including over-the-counter medicines and prescription medication. Read the story
By Sally Huggins
How do you reach student-athletes who don’t have a pressing need to educate themselves about supplements because they aren’t likely to encounter a drug test?
How do you catch their attention so you can help them understand the health threat from allegedly harmless supplements, regardless of competition issues?
That’s the challenge for the National Center for Drug Free Sport’s Resource Exchange Center. The REC staff is turning to social media to reach out – Facebook, Twitter and a blog are just some of the tools in the REC arsenal.
Use of the REC, a database of information about performance-enhancing drugs and supplements, has nearly doubled over the past three years, from 6,575 inquiries in 2007 to 11,339 in 2009. While use in Divisions II and III is increasing, about 60 percent of REC usage is in Division I.
Frank Uryasz, president of Drug Free Sport, said the reality for student-athletes is that the less likely they will be tested, the less careful they are about using supplements. But if Division III enhances its drug-education or its drug-testing programs, REC usage by the athletes and athletics staff likely will increase.
In the meantime, REC is using its new blog – Sports. Doping. Answers – to spread accurate information to the ever-increasing blogging community, said Eric Patterson, REC director.
The REC exists to provide up-to-date, confidential and accurate information on dietary supplements, dangerous or banned (prohibited) substances, and provide educational materials to empower athletes to make healthy and responsible decisions. Patterson and the REC staff are working to increase the awareness among all NCAA member athletics department staffs, especially in Divisions II and III about the resources available through REC.
The Facebook page is constantly updated with links to informative articles about substances, new study results, the latest news about athletes and drug use.
Patterson is equally busy on Twitter, hoping to catch the attention of athletes or athletics personnel. And the REC staff visits campuses when possible to talk about supplements, banned substances, and how to stay ahead on the ever-changing landscape of drug education.
“We probably haven’t reached out to Division III coaches as much as Division I,” Uryasz said.
But Drug Free Sport is interested in getting the word out about the REC and the resources available to schools in Divisions II and III at no cost to them. Because the NCAA is the REC client, any NCAA school can access REC and make use of its resources, regardless of whether the athletes are involved in drug testing.
Uryasz said any student-athlete, in whatever division, who competes or plans to compete internationally or for a national governing body, needs to be using the Resource Exchange Center to make sure he or she is in compliance with the different drug rules, since they differ at every level.
Another advantage of using the REC is that it counts among its clients some high school associations and several professional sports organizations. Athletes can have continuity as they move through the athletics ranks, Uryasz said.
“The REC is available to athletics organizations that also contract with Drug Free Sport for drug education and drug-testing services,” he said. “I like the idea of continuity for an athlete.
“For example, a high school football athlete in Texas may access the REC, and if he plays in college he can go on to use the REC for obtaining information about the NCAA’s drug programs. And then if he is fortunate enough to play professionally, he may access the REC through the NFL and NFL Players Association REC site.”
Now the trick for REC staff is to get the word out to those who can benefit, which is essentially everyone.