Apr 12, 2002

Mystery Guest Revealed and Creatine: Our Stance

"All words are pegs to hang ideas on." -Henry Ward Beecher

Mystery Guest: Dan Riley, Houston Texans

[Correct guessers included Rusty Whitt, Sam Houston State; Jim Bryan, Winter Haven; Aaron Vitt, Moberly, MO; Joe Ross, Tampa, FL; Fred Cantor, University of Maryland-Baltimore County; Jonathan Gray, Missouri Southern State University; Scott Savor, Shakopee
, MN (FYI- Scott is looking for a Strength and Conditioning Graduate Assistantship if anyone knows of any openings); Matt Byzcki, Princeton University (Coach Bryzcki worked with Coach Riley at Penn State and refers to him as "D-BOY")]

This week's guest, Dan Riley was one of the first people hired on the NFL's newest franchise, he was hired even before the head coach!

Coach Riley "spent the previous 19 seasons [as the head strength and conditioning coach] with the Washington Redskins where served as an integral part of three Super Bowl champions, four NFC champions and five NFC East champions."

"Coach Riley is known as a leader in his field. He has written several books and served as a fitness columnist for the Washington Post."

"Prior to his stint with the Redskins, he spent five years as the strength coach at Penn State. The Nittnay Lions won their first national championship after his last season. Before arriving at Penn State, he served as the strength coach at Army from 1974-77."

His tenure in the NFL has produced several head strength and conditioning coaches who have worked with him. Steve Wetzel, last week's mystery guest, recognizes Coach Riley as one of his biggest inspirations.
**Note** Much of this bio was taken from the Houston Texan's website which can be found at www.nfl.com

Creatine: Our Stance

Editors note:This article is outdated with respect to current information regarding the safety and efficacy of creatine.   I is important to remember that the information contained herein was written with the knowledge of the time.   It is left here for historical purposes. 

Type "creatine" in any major search engine online and you will no doubt be bombarded with e-literature promoting its benefits. Chances are however that there is a sale of health related products somewhere near. Does the fact that somebody is trying to make a buck make their position wrong? No, we try to sell a product here for example, but the content of their literature must be scrutinized. For example, we make no secret that we are promoting a safe, productive, and efficient strength training program. If coaches or athletes are interested in learning more we have products for them. If we were selling food supplements such as creatine it would make sense that we would promote its use. However, we are not selling any food supplements and consider ourselves unbiased commenters on this subject.

High school coaches are the ones on the front lines of this issue. This article is aimed at bringing these coaches up to speed on the current stance on this popular supplement our athletes are so crazy about.

Although the research on creatine's affect on the human body when used as a supplement is incomplete there are some established facts. The "benefits" and "risks" are listed below. As we do not claim to be experts on this subject we encourage you to follow up on our listed sources.


  • strength gains (Dryfuss)

  • increased anaerobic endurance (Mackie)

  • weight gains (Mackie)

  • quicker recovery time (Mackie)

  • ability to maintain high levels of intensity in a work-out (Benzi)


  • cramps (Dryfuss)

  • diarrhea (Dryfuss)

  • dehydration (Buccaneers.com)

  • heat related illness (Buccaneers.com)

  • nausea (Brianmac.demon)

  • blood pressure related illnesses (Mackie)

  • kidney related illnesses (Mackie, Benzi)

  • influence on insulin production (Benzi)

  • lack of knowledge on the effects over the long-term (Buccaneers.com)

  • not a properly regulated substance as it does not fall under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (Buccaneers.com)

  • advertisement schemes directed at impressionable youth should not be trusted (Buccaneers.com)

  • creatine is produced from sarcosine, which could be found in bovine tissue, "the risk of contamination.. of bovine spongiform, or mad-cow disease, can not be excluded. Thus French authorities forbid the sale of products containing creatine." (Benzi)

As you can see, there are a variety of risks, (far reaching as they may be), ranging from muscle cramps to mad-cow disease. The origin of this debate can be traced to 1997 when three college wrestlers died while working-out. It has been assumed that because they were under high heat stress, combined with poor dietary habits they were prone for disaster. However it has been found that creatine will cause dehydration combined with the previous conditions could be fatal.

Last fall America saw several high profile athletes die due to heat related illnesses. Those events have influenced school boards to dictate practice times to coaches in some area of the country, including Kansas City. Coaches, be aware that many of your athletes may be combining a high heat stress level with creatine use this summer as you begin your 2-a-days!

Can that horrible event be avoided? Yes, to a certain extent it can. First, high school coaches, take a stand against creatine use on your team! Is this uncalled for or over-reactionary? Not according to the NCAA who has outlawed participating schools from giving the supplement to their athletes. John Thomas, Head Strength Coach at Penn State, goes as far as to ban it entirely from his program. Meaning just because the school does not provide creatine that they will turn a blind eye to those athletes who buy it themselves. Fact: Penn State athletes are highly discouraged from using creatine!

There is another development in the creatine discussion which should make high school coaches take heed. The National Federation of State High School Associations advises coaches and school officials not to condone the use of creatine.

NFL teams are also becoming aware of the potential hazard of creatine use. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers "do not endorse creatine supplementation as a training [aid] for their players."

Let's take an objective look at the creatine issue as it pertains to high school coaches.

  • Is creatine use by athletes at the high school, collegiate, and pro levels legal? Yes.

  • Is creatine use by athletes safe? Yes and No, see above.

  • Are coaches putting their athletes at short or long terms health risks? Short term risks seem minimal if you consider muscle cramps, dehydration etc.. minimal. Long term risks are still unknown as studies have not run their course on long term risks.

  • Are coaches putting themselves at risk should long term risks prove to be severe and they are condoning or promoting their use? Yes. If people are suing McDonald's for spilling hot coffee on themselves I think you can be sure coaches can be held responsible for this!

  • Is creatine use by athletes with the coach's knowledge ethical at the high school level? Not according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. Many coaches are unaware of the Code of Ethics they are expected to follow as coaches. Go dig out your NFHS rule books and you will find in the back the "Coaches Code of Ethics." "Each student-athlete should be treated as though he or she were the coaches' own, and his or her welfare should be uppermost at all times.... The coach shall take an active role in the prevention of drug, alcohol and tobacco abuse... The coach shall be aware that he or she has a tremendous influence, for either good or ill, on the education of the student athlete..."

Many times coaches who openly condone and promote creatine use with their teams are "on the take". Nothing illegal mind you. But diet supplement companies have been known to approach coaches, who they know have an influence on their players and their peers, and offer to pay them for the promotion of their product. This fact was shared with those in attendance at the 2002 National Strength & Science Seminar by Penn State Strength Coach, John Thomas, who was hounded by one of these companies for his endorsement...that never came. Is this practice of marketing illegal? No. Unethical? Quite possibly. Is the long term health of our athletes at stake? The answer to that question is not known should the answer turn out to be yes then the answer to the latter questions may both prove to be true.

StrongerAthletes.com does not advocate the use of creatine due to unknown long-term risks involved. For further research on creatine and sources we used for this article:

  • Benzi, G. "Is there a rationale for the use of creatine either as nutritional supplimentation or drug administration in humans participating in a sport?" Pharmacol Res. March 2000.
  • Benzi, G. Ceci, A. "Creatine as a nutritional supplementation and medicinal product." Sports Med Phys Fitness. March 2001.
  • Dreyfuss, Ira. "Young athletes try creatine; adults hold their breath." C-Health. December 11, 2000. www.canoe.ca/Health0012/11_fitness-ap.html
  • Mackie, John W. "Creatine-Does It Really Work?" www.theberries.ns.ca/Archives/creatine.html
  • www.buccaneers.com. Creatine Suppliments. September 21, 2002.
  • www.brianman.demon.co.uk/creatine.htm. "Creatine."
  • University of Mayland-Baltimore County

Coach Fred Cantor informs StrongerAthletes.com that his athletic department supports his non-Olympic approach to strength training. UMBC competes in the Northeast Conference at the D-I level. They have won the Commisioner's Cup, awarded to the school with the most successful overall athletic program for the past several years. Thanks for your support coach.

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***No Liability is assumed for any information written on the StrongerAthlete.com website. No medical advice is given on exercise. This advice should be obtained from a licensed health-care practitioner. Before anyone begins any exercise program, always consult your doctor. The articles are written by coaches that are giving advice on a safe, productive, and efficient method of strength training.***