The first weeks of my senior season of football were the toughest times I had ever had in my life. We had two practices a day. We had one practice early in the morning, and one late in the afternoon. Physically, I wasn't at a level like most of my teammates. I felt like I couldn't do anything on the high school level; plus I was being thrown around like a rag doll. I needed something that would help me reach my potential.

That's when I tried creatine. I started out taking small doses of creatine as an energy booster before practice, noticing that I wasn't getting tired and out of breath like I once was. I continued to use the supplement before I did any type of exercising activity, although I never exceeded the daily amount. I used the supplement for about three weeks, noticing muscle development and body fat loss all over my body.

Gradually, I started reducing my dose each day until my supply was gone. In my short three weeks of taking creatine, I gained about 4-5 pounds of lean muscle. I was being noticed in practice and was getting more playing time in games. I was still unsure about what consequences I would have to face if I continued to use the substance.

I needed to know more. Everything has a price; l wanted to figure out what mine could be. It's been called the drug that separates the great from the greatest. It has helped athletes all over the world reach their potential. Creatine is an all natural food and supplement drug that works like anabolic steroids without the side effects.

It has the capability to help produce muscle mass, energy, and speed all in one pill. Over the past few years, creatine has become a controversial issue in the athletic world. A lot of research has been put into creatine although long-term effects are left unknown, leaving the controversial question of whether creatine should be legal or illegal. Being a former user of creatine showed me how I could maximize my potential athletic ability, although leaving me cynical about harm to my body. I wanted to know more specifically how it works on the chemical level and major side effects and precautions I should take if I were going to continue using the supplement. The only way for my to find the answers to my questions was with research.

I began interviewing people who knew more about creatine while at the same time I began my own research on the supplement from the sources I found on the Internet. Is it safe for me? That's what I was about to find out. The people I interviewed gave me good background on how creatine is perceived in the world today. I first interviewed Chris Mumby who was very opinionated on his views of creatine. Chris Mumby works at Hyves and works out at the Fitness Loft at the University of Iowa Campus.

According to Chris, creatine is harmless if used correctly. 'In the three years I've taken it, nothing has happened,' he stated. 'I gained forty-five pounds in three years of lifting and taking creatine. ' Chris gave an example of it not being used correctly; explaining that fatal harm may be caused if used before an athletic event, which would require endurance.

Using creatine before an athletic event my cause the athlete to suffer from dehydration, due to the retention of water in the muscles. This causes cramping if a sufficient amount of water isn't obtained. Many college athletes have reported taking the substance to help in training. 'A lot of those athletes take it illegally without the coach's or trainer's permission, since it's banned across the nation in some top named universities, but it hasn't stopped many athletes from taking it. "They have their way to hide it like steroid-like an oil change.

' He explained to me that an oil change is where there is a tube inserted into the scrotum and a tube out of your scrotum 'which replaces your urine with clean un intoxicated urine. The procedure is done the night before the urinary analysis. Though it seems to be popular at universities, the oil change is a very painful procedure. Chris hasn't had too many bad experiences with creatine. As he described, 'The worst thing I had was a lack of hydration, which gave me cramps. I took care of that by drinking more water.

' Chris' overall opinion on creatine was basically that it's harmless if used right. One who sells it had more of a conservative response to the safety of use. Adam Potratz works at the G.N.C. store in the Old Capital Mall and claims to know quite a bit about body supplements, specifically creatine. When asked his opinion on body supplements in general, Adam gave an answer of why other people use it 'I really think that people are looking for a cheap, legal steroid. Vitamins too. They think that whatever they use will help them make their body the way they want it.

' Creatine is the biggest seller at the G.N.C. store although it is not cheap. 'Twin Lab is the brand that is purchased most. G.N.C. brand sells too but not as much. ' explained Adam. 'Companies jack up the prices since they know people will buy it anyway. ' A thirty-day supply of Twin Labs Creatine Monohydrate costs about $15. The next bought brand costs $14, while G.N.C.'s own brand runs around $12. Twin Lab been proven to work better than all the others,' he added.

Other body supplements are beginning to take off. Androstenedione (Andro) and Amino Acids are beginning to sell a lot. Just like creatine, they are all natural supplements that are essential for working out but are more dangerous according to Adam. If abused, creatine could do damage to the liver and kidneys. Products like Andro could give the same kind of side effects as anabolic steroids would. But why is creatine chosen over all the others.

'Because it is real safe (creatine) and an all natural substance that you have in your body. Most people understand that and come back for more. We restock our shelves every few hours. ' According to Adam, creatine is used for more than just competitive athletics and weight lifting.

'Some use it for energy when they work out, some for physical therapy. One used it because the doctor said it would help his arthritis,' he stated. Creatine has hit the world by storm. It is sold in mass quantities and has a vast variety of people purchasing it.

According to my Uncle Dr. Ali Jalloh, creatine is all natural and pretty safe. 'Creatine is the safest out of all the other sports supplements,' said Dr. Ali Jalloh a Neuromuscular surgeon in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Jalloh said that he would recommend creatine to anyone who is interested in muscle building, although he prefers the person to be in the mid-teen age range. 'Muscles start growing and they have already reached puberty.

I wouldn't recommend starting creatine before 15. It's possible that it may stunt growth". He believes that creatine is an all natural source, although some buy a certain brand of creatine in where they don't get what they paid for. 'Some companies add fillers to their products that hurt the liver and kidneys. ' he stated. There is no way of reading a nutrition label to find out if it contains any fillers. Also creatine can not be taken into the body in any other form.

'Creatine's formula is unstable in any other state. Digesting the powder is the only way to get creatine into one's body,' he said. Since creatine has become a worldwide issue, the questions on whether or not dosages should be cycled have come up. Cycling is when a supplement is taken for a couple months at a time while resting a week or so between each month. Generally, muscle burnout is an effect of not getting enough rest from a sports supplement. 'Everyone needs time to rest at one time or another,' he laughed as if it was a dumb question to ask.

But cycling should be fairly easy to do since creatine has no stimulants to provoke addiction. 'The only way creatine can be addictive is if a person loves what it does for them so much that they can't stop taking the product due to the results,' he commented. Dr. Jalloh believes that creatine is fairly safe although caution is required in order to keep it safe. But is creatine really that safe? There is no way to know how safe creatine is until it is understood in complete detail. Creatine is an amino acid that is stored in the liver and muscles.

It's an all-natural substance that helps in muscle contraction and helps maximize a person's workout (Klein). Ninety-five percent of the body's creatine is found in the skeletal muscles. The remaining 5% are scattered throughout the rest of the body (Sahelian). Creatine can be found in protein foods like milk, steak and fish (Klein).

The amount of creatine in a high protein meal can be reached by purchasing the supplement over the counter. Creatine phosphates help athletes all over the world reach their potential. Although creatine has been considered an all-natural substance, kidney and liver damage may result from using the substance. When excess creatine is not used during a workout, it's then sent to the kidneys to be removed from the body, sometimes leaving the kidneys over saturated with creatine.

Kidney damage may result from years of over saturated kidneys (Mayo). The liver produces on average about 2 grams of creatine a day through normal diet (Mayo). Taking creatine as a sports and nutrition supplement may cause the liver to stop producing creatine (Klein). This would lead to the liver to becoming a semi-vestigial organ and may lead to serious damage.

Damage to the liver and kidney is not the only hazard caused by creatine. Small, less serious side effects can result from using the supplement (Sense). Creatine that is stored in the muscles requires the retention of water during work in order to keep the muscles working. Muscles working without the necessary amount of water causes cramping, thus leaving the rest of the body dehydrated and tired. On average a person should drink 8 cups of water daily, while a person on creatine should consume about 16 cups of water daily. There is a relationship between the amount of water in muscle cells and how much work they can do (Klein).

The more water in an individual cell increases the amount of time an individual cell can work. The chemical makeup of creatine has provoked the comparison of creatine to other sports drugs including anabolic steroids, the drug that sets the standard. There are two kinds of steroids, natural and anabolic. Like creatine, natural steroids are made from all natural substances that are usually used to cure parts of the body that have been weekend by an illness or a disease. They are often used in inhalers for asthma patients. Anabolic steroids, is made up from testosterone from a horse (Klein).

When injected into the blood stream, it raises the testosterone hormone level to a high and very unsafe level. Testosterone is needed in order to produce adrenal energy when working out. Anabolic steroids have been outlawed throughout many college and professional sporting organizations, including the Olympics due to the many personal and fatal side effects that come with taking the substance. Anabolic steroids often cause many mood swings, along with shrinkage of sex organs, hair loss and an increased amount of facial hair. This drug has also been known to damage vital body organs like the heart, brain, kidneys, and liver due the overworking of these organs to keep up with the aggressiveness of the body due to steroid use. Many fatal deaths have occurred directly from steroid use.

Former football player Lyle Alzado died of a brain tumor due to over use of anabolic steroids. Creatine, on the other hand, has been called a cheap legal steroid that doesn't have all the physical and mental side effects that come along with it. Although creatine is used by a large variety of athletes, only a few types benefit from the substance. Athletes who perform short burst sprints with little recovery time will benefit a lot of creatine. Football players and sprinters both need to extend their performance at a high level while feeling exhausted (Klein). It is recommended for football players to use creatine over another supplement because a football player needs muscle power along with speed at all times in order to handle the physical abuse dished out on the field.

Still some athletes may lose speed and quickness due to the extra muscle mass on their bodies. Long distance endurance runners might feel more energized and enthusiastic during running, but might still run very slowly at ' times. On average, an athlete who takes creatine correctly would put on 5-7 pounds of lean muscle in a month (Klein). For some people that would lead to problems in joint areas.

Adding muscle at too fast a rate doesn't give ligaments enough time to get used to the extra weight. As a result, ligaments tear and often require corrective surgery. Creatine can not only benefits people on the athletic standpoint, it may help people with physical and mental ailments. Nurtrasense has reported that creatine can lower lipid deposits ire middle-aged people, along with cholesterol levels. One study reported that after 28 days of creatine use.

The person's cholesterol level dropped by 2% (Nutra). People with neuromuscular diseases such as Mc Addled disease, , congenital myo pathic, and AIS (Lou Gehrig's, Parkinson' disease can use creatine as a drug to lessen the effects of these illnesses (Nutra). A recent radio news talk show reported that former boxing champ and diplomat Mohammed Ali is now taking creatine for his Parkinsons disease. In sports today, creatine creates the questions about it being safe, legal or acceptable usage? Steve Plisk, director of sports conditioning at Yale University, believes that creatine has been studied enough to know that it's safe for adult use. And blames the marketing strategies of companies as the problem.

'The real problem is that the market has been flooded with a low quality product and / or contaminated product that's been cut with fillers. 'It's important to be sure you " re getting in from a reputable vender!' (Marks). Plisk also warned that some creatine products a recontaminated in order to sell it for cheap and appeal to young, uneducated kids who look for a bargain. 'I would say that anyone that is a serious strength and power athlete may benefit from creatine supplementation,' said Michael Barnes, the 49 ers strength development coordinator, 'it could be a recreational athlete as well.

There's pretty good evidence that when you include creatine in training, it gives you a greater quality of training, and that may lead to greater mass gains as well as strength gains,' he stated (Creatine). Although many people think that creatine is harmless, many more people are against the use of creatine. 'Us Doctors don't like this overwhelming use. In addition to the risk of long-term side effects, people may substitute it for proper training and think: 'I can get away with practicing a little less because I'm taking creatine. ' 's aid the world famous Dr. Laskowski.

'Some studies have shown an increase in lean muscle mass with creatine. As a result we " ve got this hype of creatine producing steroid-like effects without side effects (Creatine). Coaching staff all around the world has noticed creatine use. 'It apparently doesn't help endurance,' stated Boyd Eley, the athletic performance director at the University of Nebraska.

He noticed some football players suffering from overwork burnout. 'Some athletes have reported cramps while using the supplement. But the cramps might have other causes, such as not getting enough water in hot weather' (Dreyfuss). In recent server of high school and college coaches and personal trainers by the National Strength and Conditioning Association in Colorado Springs reported that 86% of their trainees use creatine and 69% said they believed it was safe. But still many coaches and trainers are concerned that performance-enhancing supplements are sending the wrong message to kids.

One football coach said, 'I hope you " re not doing it the wrong way, I hope you " re doing it the right way,' he would say to one of his players if any muscle mass was gained in a short amount of time. 'The right way is through a proper diet and a tough weight-training regime' (Marks). Major athletic organizations like the NCAA, U.S. Olympic committee, and professional sports don't look at the effects creatine might have on the body, but they analyze it from an ethical standpoint (Dreyfuss). Giving someone an unfair advantage is highly talked about and considered cheating. 'I think of the use of legal steroids as cheating,' exclaimed former college football coach and PE teacher Pat Mediate. Many attempts have been made to do away with creatine by banning the substance from athletic competition or by making creatine illegal.

However, the National Federation of State High School Association (NFHS) has taken a different approach. 'What our statement suggests is that high schools should adopt a rule that would prohibit their coaches from distributing, selling, and dispensing creatine in any way shape or form,' stated Don Herrmann, who board member in the NFHS. Another idea the NFHS had was to focus more on educating the students instead of laying laws down (Marks). 'If laws were to be passed to ban creatine from all organized activities, who would enforce them?

The NFHS has no say on whether to ban the legal substance. And even if they did have the capability to enforce such a rule, it would be a difficult task. To begin with, enforcement would require drug testing which would do no good since creatine is found naturally in the body (Marks). What about the abnormally high levels of creatine that would be recognized if over the average 2 grams a day? 'A student could easily explain a high level of creatine by saying he / she ate several steaks the night before,' commented Alexandria Marks who writes articles for the Christian Science Monitor. 'It feeds the attitude that there's an easy way to success, that can be obtained without doing the hard work and without getting caught,' stated Jerry Diehl assistant director of the National Federation of the NHS.

'We can ban alcohol because there's a drinking age. But for these over-the-counter one, there is none that I know of,' said football coach Frank Noppenberger when asked why nothing has been done to discontinue the use of creatine (Marks). Thorough educating of people might be the only way for them to understand that creatine may hurt you. But what about the incidents that have already happened in sports where creatine has been credited or blamed?

In the fall 1997, college wrestling received its biggest tragedy when 3 wrestlers died in a two-month span. All three wrestlers collapsed while trying to shed weight before they weighed in for a wrestling match. Jeff Reese of the University of Michigan was the first to die in early November. He collapsed while riding an exercise bike in a small training room with the temperature at around 110 degrees, wearing a full body sweat suit.

It was reported that he had been on creatine for an energy boost. Although creatine might have not been the direct cause of his death, it was given all the credit. A month later Joseph La Rosa of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Billy Sayle r of Campbell University died the same way as Reese had just a month before (Sahelian). The creatine safety issue became a big debate after those three deaths like steroids did after the death of football great Lyle Alzado.

Alzado had used anabolic steroids throughout his career in the NFL. It never became public until after he tested positive for steroid use for the third time. As a result the NFL suspended him from the league. Not long after he was suspended Alzado was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor which forced him to retire from the NFL for good. His steroid use was considered the direct cause of his brain tumor. Alzado had multiple knee surgeries to repair ligament damage caused by the excess weight he put on while on steroids, but the question of how many X-rays he had never emerged.

Creatine may cause damage to pre-existing body ailments. Doctors had discovered that a British soccer player had a relapse of a preexisting kidney disease, which coincided with his soccer training. After doing several tests, that discovered that he had been taking creatine. The soccer player quit taking creatine and his kidney function improved dramatically. This recent piece of evidence was left undiscovered until tests were done on his World Cup 98 Soccer teammates discovering that every single one of them was taking creatine. Since this discovery was made after World Cup 98, the World Cup administration (FIFA) could not do anything about it.

'The use of food and vitamin supplements is not illegal. It's common in sports and has been for many years both abroad and at home,' stated David Davies who is a British supplement expert. 'This is just the start of the slippery slope football is heading down. This is totally against the ethics of sports, which is supposed to promote health' (London). This incident left a big mark in soccer as a whole. The biggest and most recent incident where creatine was a factor question was about the man who broke Roger Maris' ancient home run record in the summer of 1998.

Mark McGwire publicly stated that he had been taking creatine during the off season to increase in muscle strength. The noticeable changes in his body and the fact that the biggest star in baseball was using creatine unquestionably increased the sales of creatine by a great amount (Sahelian), indirectly leaving McGwire as an endorser for creatine as a whole. Creatine is a product with many faces that can be good or evil. It has the power and the potential to become one of the biggest headlines in sports history.

For many people, creatine has helped them build the bodies of their dreams and their self-respect. For others, creatine has harmed them along the way. As of right now we know creatine isn't a perfect product. And until it is fully scientifically researched we will never know if it is the perfect product. The process of doing this research paper has made me cynical on my choice to use creatine. Seeing all the damage and side effects has scared me.

It doesn't matter how good a product is. Nothing is worth suffering for. Most people nowadays days don't know what creatine can really do to you. They know that it can be harmful, but they say that it won't happen to them. I believe that creatine is a cheap and easy way to reach short-term success. It is hard work to gain a physical advantage over others.

The way the three college wrestlers died proves that point that some athletes would do anything to reach their peak, and that includes the use of sports supplements and illegal drugs. I agree with Don Harriman where he says that the only way to show the effects that creatine might have is with education. Also I think that the education process unfortunately will come after the loss of the lives of many people who use creatine. Any kind of sports supplement that has the capability to harm the body is a high-risk stunt. People who use creatine are living-on the-edge. My advice to anyone who decides to use creatine is using it at your own risk.

Be a user knowing that what you are doing can have an effect on you in the future. I asked myself: If I had the chance to do it all over again to help me build up my body and help me in my athletic career, would I? No! Based on the past research, not only do I have something to gain but I also have something to lose Works Consulted Baker, Susan I. The Creatine Quandary.

[Online] Available web March 12, 1999 Bernard's, Neal. War on Drugs. San Diego: Green haven Books, 1990. Creatine and Muscle Building. [Online] Available web April 14, 1999.

Creatine FAQ's. [Online] Available web March 13, 1999. Dreyfuss, Ira. [Online] Available web March 15, 1999. High Power Creatine. [Online] Available web Ali.

Telephone interview. 27 April. 2000. Klein, Scott. Creatine. [Online] Available web May 6, 1998 London, David.

Creatine Concerns in England. [Online] Available web April 5, 1999. Marks, Alexandra. "Schools Wrestle with 'Bulk in a Bottle'".

The Christian Science Monitor. September 30, 1998. Mumby, Chris. Personal interview. 2 Mar. 1999. Potratz, Adam.

Personal interview. 3 Mar. 1999. Sahelian, Ray. Creatine Nature's Muscle Builder.

[Online] Available web March 12, 1999.