Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The power of nine

The results are in and they’re not pretty.

Mired in a steroid scandal since early April, the University of Waterloo has elected to suspend its football program for one year and place its coaching staff on paid administrative leave. This decision comes in the wake of nine players on the team testing positive for performance enhancing drugs, following a team-wide test of all 62 members by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports.

Nine were guilty, and 53 apparently innocent. Yet, they all suffer, unable to play during the upcoming football season while the university conducts an internal review of its program and policies.
Some say that the decision of athletic director Bob Copeland to punish the entire team is far too harsh, while others posit that a team wins together and loses together and therefore must endure this burden as a group. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Hard to say, however, the ‘clean’ players certainly have my sympathy.

So too, however, does the UW athletic administration, placed in the ultimate unfavourable position of having to determine the severity of the punishment in light of the largest doping scandal in CIS history. Effectively, it comes down to one word.


The athletic administration had virtually no choice but to be heavy handed with its reaction to the test results. Virtually any other response could have easily been interpreted as a failed attempt to eradicate steroids from university sport.

The UW administration had to be swift in its reaction and set an example for other teams, other schools and other players. The actions of cheaters extend beyond mere individual punishments. Like it or not, your decisions as a member of a team have a ripple effect that directly affects your fellow teammates. And now, the decisions of nine members of the Warriors team to use banned substances has ultimately cost the entire team their season.

Ask around and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t want steroids kept out of the CIS, and cheaters to be prosecuted accordingly. However, it is also important to realize that keeping steroids out and testing each and every athlete presents remarkably high costs, which no school could reasonably afford. Speculation has suggested that nationwide testing of CIS athletes would amount to at least $1 million per school, per year. Waterloo itself shelled out $20,000 for its football team testing alone in April. Sustaining these costs is simply impossible for athletic departments, already operating on strict operating budgets without considerable room for new revenue streams.

And with nationwide testing virtually impossible, what is the alternative?

To make an example out of one group that will hopefully serve as a deterrent to others.

The decision to suspend the program for one year and prevent seemingly innocent members of the team from playing is eye-opening; however, I can’t help but look at this entire situation as an opportunity for the CIS to be proactive and progressive. And for the greater good of the sport, working towards making it clean and keeping it that way, this move was the right one.

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