The use of any substance in professional sport is always a topic of debate which can spark division of opinion among like-minded people, even to the level of top professionals disagreeing over whether or not anything considered “performance enhancing” should be allowed a place in a sportsperson’s lifestyle – regardless of their legality.
While many substances are banned outright and considered an absolute no-no, other products which could give sporting athletes an edge are perfectly legal – and indeed many of those in the business of professional sport openly admit to considering these products as essential to their careers. These products are commonly known as “supplements”.
The most popular sport supplements are ones that include whey protein and creatine powder, and these are considered important among many quarters for an athlete of any sport to help build their physique and allow their bodies to better cope with the physical requirements placed on them.
Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid which is vital for functions such as muscle contraction, and can help speed up an athlete’s recovery following a hefty training session.
In 1998, threats of a scandal loomed over Serie A when then-Lazio and Italy defender Paolo Negro revealed that several players at the club had taken Creatine while under the guidance of former coach Zdenek Zeman, who had recently sent shockwaves through the Italian game by revealing his belief that the list of banned substances should be looked at, and several accepted substances should also be banned.
Several big names in the nation testified in what was the largest doping probe in Italian football history, but future England manager Sven Goran Eriksson admitted that while he did not introduce the substance in his regime at Lazio, he did not believe that the use of Creatine, or any similar substance, should cause a scandal and certainly had its place in the game for those that believed in it.
In 2002, France legend Zinedine Zidane admitted that he had used Creatine while plying his trade in Serie A with Juventus, stating his belief that the naturally occurring substance helped him deal with niggling injuries and overcome general tiredness during his stint at the Old Lady. His employers at the time of his admission, Real Madrid, dismissed his confession owing to Creatine’s status as a legal substance.
Fast forward 15 years on from Negro’s comments, having taken a detour via Zidane’s admission 11 years ago, and the style of play in Italy has changed dramatically. Players are widely regarded to be fitter than they ever have been, with endurance and stamina as much on display as the natural flair and skill with the ball at their feet, a trait which has been a staple of the Italian game for years now.