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Dialing Up The Temperature: The NCAA takes on Celsius

Premiere energy drink, Celsius, now serves as a risk for athletes, as substances in the energy drink will cause NCAA drug tests to come up as positive.
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Che Womack
The popular energy drink Celsius has been banned by the governing body of college athletics for the “unfair advantage” some ingredients the drink contains can give to athletes.

National College Athletic Association (NCAA) athletes will now have to look elsewhere for caffeinated drinks, as the NCAA has banned substances present in Celsius, a popular energy drink among young adults as well as collegiate athletes.

This ban requires a dive into history, as the NCAA has always paid close attention to the amount of caffeine athletes consume. In a 2009 NCAA press release, the NCAA acknowledged its ban of substances such as guarana, which is a main ingredient in Celsius drinks.

Regardless, Celsius has seen a rise in sales and consumption in the last few years. The popular energy drink company saw a 74% increase in 2020, a 140.4% increase in 2021, and a 108% increase in 2022. However, the drink contains banned substances guarana and taurine, which has now caught the eye of NCAA officials. So, what exactly is guarana, where does it come from and how is it created?

Guarana is derived from seeds of the plant, Paullinia cupana, a native plant to the Amazon basin. The Paullinia cupana seeds contain a lot of caffeine. Specifically, the seeds contain 2-8% of caffeine, whereas coffee beans only contain 1-3%.

The risk of drinking Celsius and caffeine, as a whole, has raised eyebrows from athletes across all sports.

“If they ban Celsius, the NCAA might as well ban every caffeinated drink that is offered,” said U.S.A. Boxing athlete, Gabriel Allen. “I have never heard of the substances.”

But Allen isn’t the only one that has never heard of these substances. Division I football athletes are also confused as to why there is a heightened risk to drink Celsius.

“I like Celsius,” said junior Texas A&M linebacker Danny Lockhart. “It’s terrible for someone to be penalized for a whole year for drinking Celsius; I’ve never [even] heard of those substances.”

The focus is caffeine in-take for athletes. The NCAA 2022-2023 Drug-Testing Program states that an athlete’s drug test will pop positive if their urine’s caffeine concentration is more than 15 micrograms per millimeter.

So, Celsius drinks specifically are not banned. Rather, substances like guarana or others that fall under the NCAA’s banned stimulant class.

Where the ban has caused concern from some athletes, others are not as affected by the ban. “I have never even heard of Celsius before,” said senior UCLA wideout Logan Loya. “I have never drank Celsius before, so it doesn’t really affect me.”

But, the ban stretches far beyond the NCAA; Celsius is also not approved by the Federal and Drug Administration (FDA) due to its use of guarana. Being that Celsius is so popular among young people, especially collegiate athletes who require extreme amounts of energy to perform their daily affairs, the NCAA performed a study on Celsius.

According to the findings, “It [Celsius] proved that there are many illegal performance stimulants in the test. Celsius drinks have the illegal banned stimulants of ginseng, guarana, L-carnitine and taurine. These ingredients are not only considered banned by the NCAA but also the National Olympic committee and the World Anti-Doping Agency.”

The NCAA’s study of banned caffeinated substances is in line with the U.S. Olympic Committee’s caffeine-fact-sheet.

The fact sheet states, “It’s important to understand that every athlete responds differently to varying amounts of caffeine, so dosing for performance should be done gradually and tested in training before use during competitions. Low doses of caffeine (≤3 mg/kg of body weight or ~200mg) have been shown to be ergogenic for a number of sports, and also carry less risk of side effects.”

The study also found that drinking 1 Celsius is equivalent to drinking 4-5 cups of coffee. However, some athletes don’t see the advantages of drinking a 200mg energy drink.

“Celsius doesn’t give any crazy advantages [to me],” said Lockhart.

NCAA athletes’ schedules are filled with daily affairs and issues; now, after early morning wake ups and early morning lifts, athletes will have to look elsewhere to maintain their energy and fitness, because Celsius is off the menu.

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About the Contributor
CJ Womack, Staff Reporter
Ché Womack Jr. (CJ) is a first semester staff reporter on The Hornet. After freelancing on Substack and writing his own political-opinion pieces, CJ joined The Hornet to further develop his journalistic abilities. CJ is the producer for The Hornet’s podcast, ‘Around The Hornet,’ and produces two other podcasts: "Two Nobodies With A Mic" and "Cut The Noise." He is interested in pursuing a career in journalism, endeavoring to be a political commentator for any major news corporation.

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