Youth cyclists fall ill from caffeine products at U14, U16 races

Posted on: May 5th, 2016

One of the youth riders who took ill at recent races in Ireland was hospitalised amid deep concern for his condition after he had taken caffeine products (Photo: File image of medic)


By Brian Canty

Two Irish youth cyclists required medical attention, with one hospitalised, after suffering adverse reactions to caffeine supplements they had taken in races.

One of the riders was racing in the U14 category and another competing in an U16 race when they ingested the caffeine products, though it was not clear in what quantities.

Both riders have thankfully made full recoveries though there was concern for their welfare when they fell ill on consecutive days at races in the Republic recently.

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News of the incidents had not emerged before now and as a response to the events Cycling Ireland has issued a health warning about the dangers of caffeine products for young riders.

“Cycling Ireland would like to emphasise that caffeine supplements should not be used by riders under the age of 18, and should not be included as part of a prize for youth or junior cyclists by race promoters,” the statement said.

The incidents are likely to lead to debate about the use of supplements by riders, especially by those in the U14 and U16 ranks who race short events.

The U14 riders generally race between 20-25km, though some of their events may be slightly longer than 30kms. And U16s would generally race for about 40km, though in some cases races can be up to 60km-65km.

Caffeine is contained in some gels that are consumed by cyclists during racing and training instead of solid food. They are used across a very large number of sports.

And while caffeine is not a banned substance, the energy gels and other supplement products caffeine is contained in often carry warnings that they are not for riders below the age of 16 years or for pregnant women.

It is important to point that while many in cycling would be concerned about riders in the U16 and U14 using caffeine products to boost performance, the two young cyclists who recently required medical treatment did not break any rules by using caffeinated products while racing.

However, news of their difficulties will simply confirm for many that supplements – especially caffeinated ones – and very young riders do not mix.

Stickybottle understands the fact the incidents occurred was reported back to Cycling Ireland in official race reports and that there was particular concern for the rider who was hospitalised.

However, Cycling Ireland has made no comment to stickybottle aside from its statement, which is carried in full below.

Stickybottle has decided against publishing further detail about the incidents or riders involved in order to protect their privacy but we are reporting on the issue in more general detail in order to raise awareness on the potential dangers for young riders.

The gels caffeine is sometimes contained in are seen as more convenient and easier to digest than solid food, with more fuel packed into each product.

And those that are caffeinated are designed to given an additional energy boost, with many reviews of caffeinated gels and tablets reporting an energy ‘kick’ after consuming the products training or racing.

The products are often consumed before and during races, with some experts recommending the consumption of caffeine products up to two hours before competing.

How, the results are generally felt most in much longer races than those youth riders compete in.


Cycling Ireland statement to stickybottle in full

Risks of Inappropriate Use of Caffeinated Substances

Following recent serious incidents Cycling Ireland would like to highlight the risks of inappropriate consumption of caffeinated substances by youth and junior cyclists.

Caffeine is widely used by the majority of the adult population in various foods and drinks, along with being available in a wide range of sports gels, drinks, powders and in over the counter tablets or capsules.

While it can be effective in enhancing sports performance in trained athletes at moderate doses, “Caffeine Supplementation should not be used as an ergogenic aid in athletes under the age of 18” according to the Institute of Sport.

While there are a range of performance benefits for adult athletes across many sports in caffeine consumption, there are very serious concerns that are particularly relevant in relation to younger athletes, such as an increased heart rate, an alteration of fine motor control and over-arousal which can have a negative impact on race preparation, recovery and sleep.

Cycling Ireland would like to emphasise that caffeine supplements should not be used by riders under the age of 18, and should not be included as part of a prize for youth or junior cyclists by race promoters.