The father of All Black props Ben and Owen Franks has
defended the modern practice of taking supplements - saying
it's not for enhancing performances but simply recovering
from the demands of the game.
In the wake of the furore hitting Australian sport about
illegal supplement taking, Ben hit headlines last week with
his call for supplements to be monitored more closely and
their purity guaranteed in order to protect athletes.
Drug Free Sport New Zealand urges rugby and league players
not to take any supplements, due to the risk of banned
But 28-year-old Franks, who has played 23 tests, believes
that is unrealistic and that athletes should work more
closely with the agency. He estimates "at least 90 per cent"
of New Zealand's top rugby players take supplements. Indeed,
some franchises are sponsored by them.
The new Hurricanes player's views were criticised by some
commentators, who compared the taking of protein powder and
branch-chain amino acids with illegal performance-enhancing
drugs, claims rubbished today by his father Ken.
"Where everyone is misinformed is that as soon as you say
'supplements' it is this nasty, dark area - but a lot of the
supplements are merely a bottle of vitamin C tablets that
everyone has in their cupboard," Ken Franks said. "People are
missing the point I think.
"We're all big for getting as much as we can naturally but it
just gets to the point eventually that as a professional
athlete you have to supplement, you can't get it all from
eating naturally. For example, straight after a heavy workout
you've got a 30-minute window to get the protein into you -
if you've had a hard workout who feels like sitting down and
having a dozen eggs and a breast of chicken to try to get the
protein? It's just ridiculous.
"Everyone seems to be tainted with the same brush ... what
Ben was saying was 'why can't we sit down with the drug
agency?' We know that the onus is always on the athlete to
make sure, but why can't the drug agency audit some
supplement companies? Not to say 'if you take them you'll be
right', it's still up to the athlete, but to say 'we've
audited the factory, their processes are up to pharmaceutical
grade and we think everything is fine'. They're not taking
responsibility but at least they're giving [athletes] a list
of potential companies to use."
The Franks brothers are known to be among the hardest
trainers in the All Blacks squad. Ken Franks, the director of
coaching at the family's Christchurch gym, said his sons saw
their sport as a "business" and treated it accordingly.
"It's all around recovery, it's nothing to do with
enhancement. You look at when the [Franks] boys get back from
[European] tour. They get back at the end of November or
early December. I think last year Ben and Owen had one week
to 10 days off. The most important part of the year for them
is the off season, so when everyone thinks the boys are on
the beach having a holiday, they're training twice a day,
five times a week, just to get their condition back into them
that they've lost over the season."