Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Franks' father leaps to defence of supplements

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 substances.

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.''

- APNZ

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