Dealing with a Delicate Issue

When the news broke that the University of Waterloo had suspended its football program for one year following allegations of use of performance enhancing drugs by its players, my immediate thought turned to the CFL, and how long it will take for a player on one of Canada’s eight professional football teams to return a positive test. With the drug testing now a part of the CBA, it is inevitable that a test comes back pointing the finger at an individual. Sure, we can all hope that the day never comes and that every player in the CFL is clean, but the reality of the issue is that eventually, someone always get caught. It may happen in 15 days or 15 years, but it is bound to eventually happen. The unfortunate part about professional sports is that there is always a player who is willing to bend the rules to get a competitive advantage and keep his job over the next guy in line.

The sad part about this whole situation is that the University of Waterloo might not be, and most probably is not, the only school in the CIS with a performance enhancing drug issue. The others, if they exist, just haven’t been forced into the spotlight in the same glaring manner as the Warriors football team. It’s also sad because although there were nine cases of positive tests, there were still 54 young men who tested negative, and thanks to the actions of a few, there football careers have for the most part been put on hold.

With approximately 170 players from CIS schools currently on CFL rosters, the odds are high that at least one of these players could have been exposed to performance enhancing drugs at some point in their careers. A hopeful fan would like to think that all of these players have turned the other cheek and never touched anything that would give them an unfair advantage, and to date, there is no reason to suspect otherwise.  Unfortunately, with limited to no enforcement, both in the CFL and CIS, players are not really risking much by bending the rules and it would be a miracle if all 170 players have been clean for their entire careers. It may seem unfair to offer up such a suggestion, but the burden of proof for those currently or previously involved in CIS athletics is now to prove that they are clean athletes. The system has changed from one where we believed out athletes to one where they now have to show us.

Of course, the first positive test in CFL might not come from a CIS graduate at all, it could very well come from a player who spent their college career south of the border. That however is not the point. The fact is that the Waterloo issue has raised some questions in Canadian football that will need to be answered. Players will now have to prove their innocence, because of the actions of a few.

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