Young cyclist hospitalised after taking caffeine supplements

Cycling Ireland has warned against the “inappropriate consumption of caffeinated substances” before, during, or after youth and junior bike races after a number of young cyclists took ill at an event in Cork last weekend.

The governing body was alerted to two incidents involving U14 and U16 cyclists, one of whom required hospital treatment. Both riders have made a full recovery, though there was concern for their welfare when they suffered adverse reactions at the races.

“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,” read the statement.

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

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

One eyewitness who did not want to be named said it was “very scary” to see young riders have laboured breathing and “wobble” on their bikes.

“Many parents had not realised the dangers of these for young cyclists. They are commonly used by kids today,” said the source. “Everyone is 100% fine now but it was very scary seeing what I’ve seen.”

The incident is likely to spark debate not only about the culture of using such supplements in order to seek a perceived advantage over a rival, but the taking of caffeine as a stimulant with such risks.

The recommended daily amount (RDA) of caffeine for healthy adults is around 400mg, or four cups of coffee. Some energy gels could contain upwards of 250mg of caffeine. There are no current guidelines for RDA for youths.