By Noah Miller
The University of Waterloo Warriors football team will be sidelined for the entire 2010-11 season following unprecedented steroid testing of the entire team.
The U of W requested all 62 players be tested for banned performance enhancing drugs by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport after learning that Nathan Zettler, a former player, was under investigation for trafficking banned substances.
On Monday, the university, alongside CCES and Canadian Interuniversity Sport, held a press conference to announce the results of the March 31 tests and subsequently suspended the team for one year.
Urine and blood samples were collected from the team’s athletes for a total of 82 samples. During the press conference, it was indicated that CCES is dealing with nine potential doping violations.
One athlete refused testing, two admitted to use before the procedures began, two admitted to use at the sample collection, three samples produced adverse results and one case will be pending additional police investigation.
“This is the most significant doping issue in CIS history, and we’re taking it very seriously,” said CIS chief executive officer Marg McGregor in a press release. “This situation illustrates that the CIS doping control program needs to be strengthened to ensure a level playing field and protect the rights of the vast majority of student-athletes who respect the rules and complete clean.”
At the time of the Waterloo testing, CCES also conducted doping control tests at the University of Guelph and McMaster University which have yet to return any adverse results.
“Naturally we’re very disappointed in the results of the tests, but from the beginning Waterloo initiated testing the team in the belief it was the right thing to do,” said University of Waterloo athletic director Bob Copeland in the press release.
This announcement comes only one year after Dinos linebacker Duncan McLean was deemed ineligible to play for two years after he tested positive for anabolic steroids.
Dinos football head coach Blake Nill echoed Copeland’s sentiments.
“It’s a disappointing scenario. I think that all the CIS coaches, they support our drug policy, they go out of their way to educate their athletes. They want it done right,” said Nill. “When something like this happens it’s sort of like a kick in the teeth. I feel bad for the coaches at Waterloo and I feel bad for the kids, but I support our drug policy and it’s just an unfortunate situation.”
see Waterloo doping , page 5 Dr. Preston Wiley, a sports medicine physician and associate professor at the University of Calgary, listed a number of reasons athletes turn to performance enhancing drugs.
“There is pressure to do so. Not pressure to use the drugs so much as pressure to get bigger and stronger,” said Wiley. “Then there is the internal pressure to make the team. You look at the other teams, they’re all big and so you need to be big. It doesn’t mean that someone can’t be smaller and be good, but most players in football are big guys.”
Nill said most coaches know the “proper way” to train. He noted health concerns for young athletes who may feel invincible when choosing to take steroids.
According to Wiley, side effects can include acne, hair growth, shrunken testicles disrupting sperm production, strokes, heart attacks and potentially an uncommon type of liver tumour.
“There is risk, but for a male it’s not very high,” said Wiley, who added that football seems to have higher rates of substance abuse than many other sports. “The reality is these drugs work or they wouldn’t be used. You have to reward those people who get it though honest work so they are not disadvantaged by somebody who’s cheating the system.”
Nill pointed out that this event “reflects poorly on the entire program.”
“One of the kids’ decisions is ultimately going to reflect on the program, on the coaches involved in the program, on the volunteers involved in the program. In this particular case it’s shocking.”
Nill admitted that he has confronted players in the past, but warned against rumours and hearsay.
“You want your kids to train hard, to eat correctly and when you see them with their gains you’d like to think its natural. Ninety-nine per cent of it is natural, but it’s tough, the only way you can [tell for sure] is test,” said Nill.
Internationally, competitive athletes are subject to testing all year long, in and out of their respective seasons. However, this standard does not always translate into the standard for Canadian intercollegiate sports.
“Football is tested generally in season at the finals and sometimes tested out of season, but that’s not very common. The reason that’s not very common is it costs $400-$600 per test, depending on what you test for.”
The cost of testing is largely due to thorough regulation. Everything from the peeing and collection to transportation and expert analysis using expensive equipment in an accredited lab requires extensive manpower and time.
“As an athlete you’d want that, but somebody has to pay and if there was any problem in there, a lawyer would make it a null and void test,” said Wiley. “It protects the athlete and it protects the system.”
Wiley felt testing could be effective without a set percentage of athletes being tested.
“There has to be an obvious and perceived threat that they can be tested at anytime,” said Wiley. “Everybody buys into the system. . . . The problem at the end of the day is who’s going to pay for it?”
Nill said that he remains confident in the CIS testing program and believes they do a good job.
“I think it’s one of the more active programs. They actually get out there and test,” said Nill, adding Dinos players have been tested both after big games and during off season in the weight room.
“They’re getting it done,” said Nill. “They are out there and it’s working.”
“There’s educational programs every varsity athlete is supposed to [complete] at the beginning of the season. There’s a video and a few other things. All of that’s done,” said Wiley. “You have to have an education process you can’t just be punitive and policing.”
In a June 16 press release, CIS announced that current members of the U of W football program “will be allowed to transfer to another CIS institution and participate immediately.”
The release followed a CIS Eligibility Committee ruling attempting to quell questions regarding CIS participation for current UWaterloo athletes whose tests were clean.
Acknowledging the unique set of circumstances surrounding this situation, the committee interpreted an existing ‘Discontinuance of Sport’ regulation to allow certain players “the opportunity to transfer without encumbrance to another CIS institution for 2010-11, subject to all other CIS regulations.”
A part of this regulation states that Waterloo “football student-athletes cannot be contacted for the purpose of recruiting unless the respective student-athlete has initiated the contact.”
According to a recent article in the Globe and Mail, several Warriors’ team captains who tested clean will hold a press conference in an attempt to reverse the university’s decision June 17.