Jan 29, 2015
Steroid Scandal Rocks College Team

By Abigail Funk

In April, three members of the University of Waterloo football team were arrested for possession of steroids and stolen goods. In the fallout, nine players tested positive for performance enhancing drugs, two of the team’s coaches were placed on administrative leave, and the program was suspended.

What started as a routine police investigation after a string of thefts in Waterloo, Ontario, prompted the raid of two residences in late March. Police found what they were looking for: stolen electronics, clothing, jewelry, and sporting goods amounting to $7,500 in value. But they also found several types of anabolic steroids, including nandrolone, stanozolol, testosterone, and trenbolone, as well as a breast cancer drug called tamoxifen, which is sometimes used to counter the side-effects of steroid use.

In April, one University of Waterloo football player was charged with possession of anabolic steroids and human growth hormone for the purpose of trafficking along with several other counts related to the robberies. A current teammate and a former teammate were also charged in connection with the case. In late June, a third current player was charged with possession and trafficking.

After the arrests, Waterloo officials had the entire team tested for performance enhancing drugs. Urine and blood tests were conducted by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports (CCES), which found positive results from nine athletes’ urine samples. (The CCES is still waiting on the results from blood samples.)

In mid-June, Head Coach Dennis McPhee and Assistant Coach Marshall Bingeman were placed on paid leave, and Waterloo announced that its football program was suspended for one year. “There’s a larger message we need to send with this action,” Athletic Director Bob Copeland told the Associated Press. “There’s been a lot of tears over the last several days. This has been a very measured decision by the university. We’ve discussed all of the pros and cons of doing this, and we felt, given the gravity of this issue, that this was just too important not to take this particular action.”

Not everyone agrees with the decision–especially those closest to the team. “The university said they dealt with it in a way that will set an example,” team member Dustin Zender told the Associated Press. “Unfortunately, that example ruins some of the lives of our players here. And because of the actions made by some–who weren’t smart–it now affects players who did the right thing.”

Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), Canada’s governing body for college sports, has responded to criticism that its drug testing program is not comprehensive enough. “This is the most significant doping issue in [CIS] history, and we’re taking it very seriously,” said Marg McGregor, Chief Executive of CIS. “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 compete clean.”

The federal group that funds CCES, which carries out the testing for CIS, will conduct its own investigation. CCES officials have said they need more funds to significantly expand drug testing in CIS-member school programs.

Aside from its black eye, there have been residual effects for Waterloo’s football program. The Toronto Argonauts, who play in the Canadian Football League, had planned to send a prospect back to the Waterloo campus after training camp, but can no longer do so. And the schools that Waterloo has on its schedule have had to scramble and reschedule games as well, ultimately resulting in an earlier start date for league members.

Though players launched a Facebook group page campaigning for a reversal of the suspension, and legal action has been threatened, school officials show no sign of backing down. “It’s just too many [positive tests],” Vice President Academic and Provost Feridun Hamdullahpu told Maclean’s magazine. “For all new students coming to Waterloo to study and also participate in athletics, this had to be heard loud and clear. [Using banned substances] will not be tolerated.”

Abigail Funk is an Assistant Editor at Training & Conditioning.

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