Although Ohio State’s recreational sports department is sponsored by 39 companies, there is at least one type of advertiser you won’t see: nutritional supplement companies.
And because of ethical concerns regarding supplements such as creatine, it is unlikely students will find them advertising on campus in the near future.
“We know that muscle-building supplements like creatine can certainly — in some people and at certain levels — hurt the kidneys or create other side effects,” said Clay Marsh, associate vice president of Health Sciences Research at OSU, who has been involved in studies on supplements.
“Young people don’t always appreciate the consequences of their activities,” he said. “We look at nutritional supplements or bodybuilding supplements and I think many times people that are younger may not worry about the long-term consequences because they might not feel them immediately.”
Although OSU has been approached for sponsorship by multiple supplement companies, officials have always turned down the offer before discussing the cost of advertisement, said Beau Rugg, associate director of Recreational Sports.
One of the prime reasons for turning down sponsorship from these companies stems from the university’s membership in the National Intramural and Recreational Sports Association, which publicly denounces nutritional supplements.
“We really don’t have a lot of data on what’s good and what’s not,” Rugg said. “It’s so nebulous out there on supplements, it makes it very difficult to make a decision. There’s just not enough [information] out there to say ‘Oh yeah, we agree with this and don’t agree with this.’ So we’re going to wait.”
Many universities have also decided to wait as well. Rugg said he does not know of any universities in the intramural association that sell advertisement space to supplement companies — and every school in the Big Ten is in that association.
Though no figures are available for supplement advertising within college recreation facilities, various universities’ athletic programs are or have been sponsored by supplement companies, including UCLA, USC, Stanford, Arizona State, and the University of Miami, Fla.
The most recent data about the cost of advertising for supplement companies at universities, comes from a 2003 report by The Los Angeles Times. The newspaper reported that MET-Rx, a popular supplement company, had a deal with the University of Miami worth more than $100,000 annually.
Marsh emphasized that answers about supplement safety will develop as more researchers study the topic. Until then, the university won’t likely endorse supplements.
“Sometimes we can’t appreciate the side-effects or toxicities of therapies, treatments, supplements or pills until a longer period of time has passed,” Marsh said.” So we need to be judicious in our ability to continue to follow people and make sure they aren’t developing any toxicities or side-effects from taking these things.”