Rugby

Former Teammate Claims Creatine May Have Played A Role In Jonah Lomu's Death

Former Teammate Claims Creatine May Have Played A Role In Jonah Lomu's Death

Over three months on from Jonah Lomu's passing, one of his former teammates claims the supplement creatine may have played a role in his death.

Lomu, aged just 40, died due to a heart attack which may have been caused by his kidney condition.

Lomu had battled kidney issues since 1995 when he was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome. He had a kidney transplant in 2004 but his body subsequently rejected the new organ.

Joeli Vidiri, who played with Lomu for both Counties Manukau and Auckland Blues, made the claim about creatine.

Like Lomu, Vidiri was also diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome. An incredible coincidence when you consider only 0.00003% of people suffer from it.

Quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald, Vidiri told of his theory.

We were in our prime and enjoying ourselves, and you ask, 'why us?' It's a question we can't answer for sure. Lots of people have been  telling me about creatine and it does make you wonder. I would be  happy if somebody came through with a study to help with that and to help the young people who are taking it now.

We need to know what are the side effects of taking it. I would love to know that because we can advise the young people about the right way to go.

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However, former All Black doctor John Mayhew - who made the announcement of Lomu's death in November - has stated the winger never took the supplement due to knowledge it could possibly exacerbate his kidney problems.

Jonah never took creatine. We knew he had a renal impairment for most of his career, so he definitely was not taking it.

It is not a banned substance, but as a rule of thumb I advise anyone with kidney problems not to take it.

Creatine, used to increase muscle mass, is certainly something which Vidiri - who has two caps for the All Blacks - has memory of Lomu using.

We used to be given a really big container of it [creatine] every few months.

Instructions were written on the back and we would take the container away with us. We used to mix it with water and it would puff you up. I can't remember how much we would take any more. We took it before we trained and after too.

Jonah would take it, too, though maybe not as much, because he was already on the drugs for his kidney condition. We took it from 1997  onwards. We used to have a corner in the dressing room where we would sit together.

According to Vidiri, the supplement was taken due to the pressure players felt to perform.

We were good mates. When you're young, you're so desperate to be up there, to get anything that can help you move forward with your rugby career.

There was a lot of pressure on us, because we had to perform. We had just started to be paid, it was semi-professional. We had to perform week in, week out. For the Blues, you had to perform to be in the starting line-up the next week.

The supplements were part of that because you wanted to get stronger. The game was getting tougher and faster. You wanted something to help you improve in your rugby career.

I stopped taking creatine when we started to get worried about what it was doing to us. As soon as there were rumours about it, I stopped.

The link between Lomu's death and creatine is something which Neil Francis wrote about for the Sunday Independent in the days following the former All Black's death.

Francis was merely speculating at the time but he did have knowledge of creatine's extensive use by New Zealand provincial teams.

In the mid-'90s when Creatine became the new wonder supplement, it was embraced by New Zealand rugby. Without engaging in a systematic supplementation programme, the Kiwis at provincial level actively promoted and recommended the product. The Auckland Blues squad used Creatine heavily as part of its programme. It is well recognised that Creatine was a major component in most of New Zealand's provincial squads' dietary and supplementation programmes.

Picture credit; Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

PJ Browne
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