As part of CSTB’s all-too infrequent attempts to link to stories that would receive far more reasoned commentary at Stay Free! Daily, here’s the NY Times’ Duff Wilson reporting on a terrific new product for lethargic kids. Imagine how Todd Marinovich would’ve turned out if this had been part of his training table.

The company’s marketing materials describe the drink as a way to kick-start the morning for children as young as 4. The company Web site, adorned with a picture of an elementary school wrestler and a gymnast, says its drink can help a child “develop fully as a high-performance athlete” and fill nutritional gaps “in a sport that is physically and mentally demanding.”

The drink, called Spark, contains several stimulants and is sold in two formulations: one for children 4 to 11 years old that includes roughly the amount of caffeine found in a cup and a half of coffee, and one containing twice that amount for teenagers and adults.

Despite the promotional materials, Sidney Stohs and Rick Loy, executives with AdvoCare International of Texas, which makes the products, said Spark was not devised or marketed for children’s athletic performance but rather for their overall good health.

“It’s not just a caffeine delivery system; it has many more nutritional properties,” said Stohs, senior vice president for research and development at AdvoCare, the nation’s leading company in direct marketing of dietary supplements for athletes.

“That’s scary,” said Dr. Mary L. Gavin, a pediatrician and medical editor of the KidsHealth Web site for the Nemours Center for Children’s Health Media at Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del. “The effects of caffeine have never been tested on kids. Marketing to kids is a major concern.”

Elisa Odabashian, a senior policy analyst with Consumers Union, said in a separate interview: “What are we coming to? What kind of society are we spawning here where everybody has to be artificially stimulated?”

Not to get all Jose Canseco on you or anything, but that’s progress, baby. I had a childhood full of 100% natural stimulation and where’d it get me? Cut from the JV baseball team, left in the dust by the Giambis, Sheffields and, uh, Velardes of the future. If Barry Bonds showed bravery in turning his already finely tuned body into a science experiment in his thirties, how courageous would a child be to do the same at the age of four? CSTB salutes today’s young athletes, their proud parents, and most of all, the the pioneering companies who work so hard to make our world a better place. God Bless America (and God Bless Caffeine).