Testosterone booster leads to football lawsuit

Three high school football co-captains in Nevada are suing their coach and school, claiming they were forced off the team for standing up to “bullying” by their coach, who disapproved of their use of a nutrition supplement that may boost testosterone levels, the Reno Gazette-Journal reports.

Filed in a federal district court on January 3, the lawsuit says coach Steve Struzyk at Galena High School in Reno was too dramatic, in a humiliating way in front of the entire team, when he lectured players about the use of a testosterone booster. He then, according to the complaint, dramatically stripped the three players—Mateo Lemus, Bryan Madison and Jake Berger—of their leadership roles by ripping up their captain’s papers and throwing them in the trash.

“I’m not the kind of person to bend over and take this,” Mr Lemus said, according to the suit. “You better learn to bend over if I tell you to,” Mr Struzyk responded, according to the suit.

The supplement, Boost Elite, isn’t banned by the Nevada Interscholastic Athletic Association and is available by mail order and on Amazon. Two of the ingredients have been shown to boost testosterone levels in male adults. Other ingredients boost a man’s libido, increase his metabolic rate, or help him burn fat.

“The public policy point we’re trying to make [with this lawsuit] is that this conduct is as prohibited on the athletic field as it is in the classroom,” the paper quoted Terri Keyser-Cooper, a lawyer who’s representing the three players, as saying. “This coach was over the top and played a significant role in harming these students and their future.”

The three boys had made football a big part of their high school lives and were hoping to receive football scholarship to play for a college team upon graduation.

High school kids use testosterone-boosting supplements

The top ingredient in Boost Elite is listed as “Tribulus Terrestris Extract.” This is a plant extract and not specifically harmful or anything, but claims that it boosts testosterone are completely unsubstantiated in the scientific literature.

It’s a common ingredient in products that claim to boost testosterone levels, mainly because legend has it that it was used to build muscles in Eastern Bloc athletes during the Cold War, who threw shot puts like a hundred miles or something. But its effects, according to studies on animals, are mainly in the brain.

It seems to have a potent effect on increasing the density of androgen receptors in the brain and may increase a man’s libido or sexual drive as a result. Since testosterone is an androgen, by increasing the density of receptors for this chemical, a man’s sexual drive is bound to be affected. No effect on muscle size or repair after a workout, however, has ever been shown in human or animal studies. In other words, tribulus extract just takes up wasted space in the supplement if a man’s goal is to build muscle mass by increasing testosterone levels. Tribulus doesn’t boost testosterone levels at all.

A couple ingredients in Boost Elite—zinc and fenugreek seed—have been linked to testosterone levels. For example, patients with chronically low testosterone levels tend to be deficient in zinc as well.

As for the other ingredients, some are straight fat-burners (e.g., yohimbe and synephrine). That purpose isn’t advertised as one of the effects of this product. Yohimbe works by increasing metabolism, and synephrine acts by increasing the oxidation of fat while decreasing the oxidation of carbohydrates during low-grade exercise.

Others have an effect on a man’s libido but not by boosting testosterone or enhancing muscle growth. In this category are horny goat weed, which acts like some drugs used in pills that treat erectile dysfunction, and maca root. These chemicals have no effect on testosterone levels, however. Longjack extract, in research reprinted by the National Library of Medicine, has also been shown to have no effect on testosterone levels.

One of the ingredients, DMG, or dimethylglycine HCl, was once banned for interstate sale by a federal court in Chicago. The court said it was an unsafe food additive. There may be a very small chance that DMG can enhance athletic performance, but its main action in the body is on the immune system, according to WebMD. The safety of DMG for more than 28 days is not known.

Research is equivocal about panax ginseng. Some studies say it may boost testosterone levels in infertile men; others say it has no effect. It’s not harmful, though, just possibly wasteful for high school athletes who aren’t infertile.

So let’s look at that waste. If the goal of a high school football player is to enhance muscle development, increasing testosterone levels might be good under the guidance of a physician. In that case, though, far better supplements are available on the market that include more testosterone-boosting chemicals and less filler, fat-burning, or libido-enhancing chemicals. The more tribulus extract a supplement contains, for example, the less potent chemicals it has for accomplishing the objective of boosting testosterone levels.

As for the lawsuit—and whether the coach was a bully in kicking the players off the team or in stripping them of the captain status—the football players are asking a judge to declare the actions by the coach and the school’s principal, who backed up the coach’s decision and treatment of the players, illegal and to award monetary damages for economic loss, pain and suffering, and punitive damages.

Any demeaning action counts as bullying if one student does it to another. Schools take bullying seriously, whether it takes place on a football field, in a classroom, on social media, or wherever, and whether the allegations are centered on a teacher or student. Although coaches occasionally use foul language, straight-up bullying isn’t acceptable.

About the Author

Paul Katula

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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