"The use of Performance Enhancing Drugs may be harmful to the health and safety of the Players and they are contrary to the spirit of football. The use of Performance Enhancing Drugs represents a serious threat to the cultural, educational, economic and social benefits that football can bring to society, and has a negative impact on the moral and ethical behaviour that football can foster with individuals."

Yesterday, it was reported by the Canadian Press that the Hamilton Tiger-Cats long-snapper (and linebacker, as verified on the Tiger-Cats website by the Canadian Press), Jordan Matechuk, was arrested at the International Bridge border crossing on the 31st of May for possession of steroids.

According to a release from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, officers ended up seizing a total of 543 anabolic steroid pills, 262 millilitres of anabolic steroids in liquid form, 1.25 grams of marijuana, 19 syringes, and 51 replacement needles after a routine inspection.

I don’t know about you, football fans, but Matechuk hardly sounds like a first-time offender to me.

But maybe he is.

Either way, that’s a whole lot of illegal substances to be bringing across the Canada-U.S. border. Also, it is unclear from the reports as to whether or not Matechuk was crossing the border with the intent to sell these substances, or if they were his own personal purchases.

And here’s a funny thing related to the Tiger-Cats website...

I was attempting to validate the findings by the Canadian Press that Matechuk was also listed on the Tiger-Cats roster as a linebacker, but unless I’m losing my mind, Matechuk has already been removed from the roster list.

Wow, that was fast!

In other words, Matechuk has been “unofficially” released as a member of the Hamilton team.

The Tiger-Cats clearly have no interest in being affiliated with any player who would be “caught” using steroids.

So just out of curiosity, I decided to take a closer look at the CFL Drug Testing Policy (dated June 2010), and here are a few key points of interest:

[Repeat] "The use of Performance Enhancing Drugs may be harmful to the health and safety of the Players and they are contrary to the spirit of football. The use of Performance Enhancing Drugs represents a serious threat to the cultural, educational, economic and social benefits that football can bring to society, and has a negative impact on the moral and ethical behaviour that football can foster with individuals."

So far, so good. I really like and appreciate that statement actually. As a youth football coach and father of a teenage football player, I completely and whole-heartedly agree with it.

"Concrete actions such as drug education, drug testing, appropriate discipline and rehabilitative measures must be taken in order to efficiently prevent the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs in the CFL."

Agreed. What else?

"This Policy to Prevent the Use of Performance Enhancing Drugs is to be considered a true reflection of the CFL and CFLPA’s desire and will to efficiently prevent the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs."

Okay, so as a policy, philosophy and mission statement of the League, it is apparent that steroids and other Performance Enhancing Drugs are very much frowned upon.

But what exactly is the League doing to stop the use of these banned substances?

"The CFL/CFLPA Policy allows for the collection of blood and/or urine samples. Players can be notified for Drug Testing anytime during the calendar year. Players may be tested in-competition and out-of-competition."

As expected I guess. So what happens if these athletes get caught?

"Counselling is considered by the CFL and CFLPA to be a key component of the CFL/CFLPA Policy and will be made available to all Players. In the event a Player returns an Adverse Analytical Finding following a Drug Test and is assessed by a Substance Abuse Counselling Organization that is recognized by the CFL and CFLPA, as having a substance abuse problem, a Player may be requested to undergo counselling, as a condition of returning to play."

A player may be “requested” to undergo substance abuse counselling? Really?

So let me get this straight...cheating is considered a "substance abuse problem?" A little rehab and counselling and ultimately, any previous indiscretions are essentially forgiven?

"Drug dependency is not a typical manifestation of Performance Enhancing Drugs. Therefore full rehabilitation for Performance Enhancing Drug abuse would not be required.  Substance abuse counselling would be the recommended course of action."

Interesting, however I’m not sure if that sounds like much of a deterrent.

With so much money on the line in the professional careers of these players, I would have to believe that any of them would seriously consider the option of using PED’s if they knew that they could potentially prolong their careers, improve injury recovery times, and make them a lot more money—with little to no consequences for their actions.

And how many athletes take PED’s because they truly believe that “everyone else is doing them” and it’s the only way to compete in today’s world of sports?

It’s all about risk vs. reward. The risk (consequences) of getting caught don’t seem to really outweigh the reward (money, fame, performance enhancement) from using PED’s.

Plus, I’m tired of the excuses. It seems like every athlete today has some unprovable excuse as to how these substances actually got into their system in the first place.

"Players are ultimately responsible for the medications or supplements they ingest. They must take reasonable steps and precautions, including a detailed review of the packaging of products they apply or ingest, to ensure that their medications and/or nutritional supplements do not contain ingredients that are contained on the Prohibited List."

Okay, credit the league for writing this into the policy because frankly, I'm tired of hearing about athletes testing positive for PED's and then blaming some unknown "supplement" that they mysteriously purchased at a local health food store (Mark McGwire for example).

It is the player's responsibility to know what they are putting into their body. Excuses should not be tolerated in this day and age.

But what about the actual testing itself?

How can Joe Public be certain that it's legitimately honest, particularly since it's not at all regulated or controlled by the Canadian Government?

How do we know that the CFL isn't just talking a good talk and saying all of the right things, but then turning a blind eye to what's actually going on?

"The CFL/CFLPA Policy recognizes, adopts and applies the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) International Standard for Laboratories. These standards may be modified by WADA from time to-time, in accordance with its own regulations. Test results of samples will only be recognized by the CFL and CFLPA under this CFL/CFLPA Policy when they have been analyzed by a WADA accredited laboratory."

Again, this all sounds great, but on the other hand, it only raises more questions and concerns.

At the end of the day, the problem that I have with this entire process is that it clearly isn't working.

How can I say that?

Well for starters, please remember that Jordan Matechuk wasn't caught using PED's by the League itself. He was caught in possession of these substances while crossing the Canada-U.S. border.

So the question remains...if the drug testing procedure by the CFL is so effective and reliable (and assuming that this wasn’t Matechuk’s very first encounter with steroids), then why didn't they catch Matechuk themselves at an earlier date?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Our future generations of athletes want to know.

I want to know.

Does anyone out there have an answer (not to be confused with an “excuse”)? Because if you ask me, this is a much bigger black eye on the Canadian Football League than I think anyone else is willing to admit at this point.

 

 

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