Sports Letter: Creatine concern

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The Independent Online
Sir: In a report on swimming (9 Sept), you describe creatine as "a performance-enhancing drug that builds muscle strength".

Have you checked this out with experts in medical research? My impression, gleaned from widespread general reading, is that creatine is a natural substance found in minute quantities in the body, that it builds muscle bulk (possibly through water retention) rather than strength, and that it is not very effective.

One member of a scientific committee was once quoted in Athletics Weekly as saying that if creatine did enhance performance it would be banned immediately, but the evidence was inconclusive and they didn't recommend it as a supplement because no studies had been carried out on Olympic athletes. But there was nothing to prevent people producing expensive urine if they had the money.

Various footballers (eg. Neil Ruddock) think it causes injuries because muscles become too big for the tendons which attach them to the bones. Indeed, you recently stated in an article on the sprinter Dwain Chambers (24 Aug) that his mother, a nurse, always warned him off consuming such items. "She said creatine could flood my liver in the long run, and I just listen to what my mum says, because `mother knows best'." was how it was put.

In short, creatine seems, in my own, unqualified view, to be over-hyped, expensive, ineffective, possessing unpleasant - possibly dangerous - side- effects, but not in the same league as the notorious steroids and the new-wave drugs (EPO, HGN, PFCs, etc) as far as performance enhancement and side-effects are concerned.

All I hope is that you sports journalists don't let up in your efforts to expose the hypocrisy over drug-use in sport and help the sports authorities to stamp it out.

Sports Letter: Pace makers

Sir: Graham Williams (Sports Letters, 27 Aug) is right. Michael Johnson's average speed during his world record 200m run was greater than Maurice Greene's during his at 100m (a fact explicable by the greater proportion of a 100m race spent accelerating from a stationary start to racing speed). But the question of who is the world's fastest man is surely to be decided by asking which achieved the greater maximum speed during a race - a speed which will certainly be considerably higher than the average for the run. I don't know which did, but I wouldn't mind betting on Greene.


Edge Hill, London