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Some Vitaminwater flavors contain banned substances

The Department of Athletics sent an e-mail to all student-athletes and coaches Tuesday informing them that some flavors of Vitaminwater, the popular flavored-water label, contain substances that are banned or "impermissible" under NCAA guidelines.

Six of Vitaminwater's 15 varieties contain common stimulants or other psychoactive chemicals that could be problematic for both the University and the student-athletes, according to Drug Free Sport, an organization that conducts drug testing for NCAA schools.

A student who tests positive for a banned substance above a certain level, according to the NCAA, loses a year of eligibility. An "impermissible" substance is one that is not banned, but is against the rules for coaches or trainers to provide to students.

The flavors known as Power-C, Energy, B-relaxed, Rescue, Vital-T and Balance were all mentioned in Associate Athletic Director Robert Kenneally's e-mail to students, though only Energy and Rescue contain compounds that are banned - caffeine in both cases, and guarana seed extract for Energy. Caffeine is banned only above a level of 15 micrograms per milliliter, according to the NCAA, a mark that can be avoided with most moderate diets.

Five flavors contain some amount of impermissible substances, and so cannot be provided to students. Power-C, B-relaxed and Rescue contain the psychoactive compounds taurine - found in Red Bull - L-theanine and ECGC, the active ingredient in green tea extract.

Balance contains traces of glucosamine - sometimes used to rebuild cartilage or heal joints - and Vital-T has chemicals found in rooibos tea extract.

Some athletic coaches have told their teams not to drink the banned flavors of Vitaminwater. But Sarah Fraser, assistant athletic director for compliance, said it was "more the responsibility of the individual student-athlete to know what they're putting into their body."

"You really have to read the ingredients on what you eat and drink as a student-athlete," she said.

Andrew Bakowski '11, a member of the baseball team, said he understood the rules. "We all know it's our own responsibility that anything we're taking is cleared and is allowed by the NCAA," he said, "and we know that we do get tested."

He added that two years ago some members of the team were tested for banned substances at a regional tournament.

However, for student-athletes that do not anticipate making it to an NCAA-sponsored event or who are not on Division I teams, the pressure to avoid banned substances is not as great. Jamison Kinnane '12, a member of the women's crew team, said she did not think the banned substances in two of the Vitaminwater flavors would affect her.

"I don't think they usually test you - there is just the threat of being tested," she said. Only the top eight girls on the team make it to an NCAA regatta, she said.

Max McFadden '11, a former member of the wrestling team, said he thought there were "a lot of banned substances being used and consumed at Brown."

Testing occurs "on such an infrequent basis that NCAA rules never really applied to the wrestlers," he said.

Vitaminwater is a subsidiary of Coca Cola Co., a major NCAA sponsor, which maintains "a sideline presence at NCAA championships," Kenneally wrote in his e-mail.

Lindsey Raivich, a Vitaminwater spokeswoman, confirmed in an e-mail to the Herald that two Vitaminwater flavors contained caffeine, and added that "we respect the NCAA's rule to not offer these varieties to its student-athletes." The NCAA has approved nine flavors of Vitaminwater for student-athlete consumption, she continued.

A representative from the NCAA could not be reached for comment after multiple phone calls to the organization's headquarters.


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