Should CIS expand its drug testing?


Andrew Bucholtz
Andrew Bucholtz
Mike Woods
Mike Woods

Canadian Interuniversity Sport announced Jan. 24 that Western Mustangs football player Matt Baxter tested positive for Letrazole, a drug frequently used in steroid cycles to block estrogen production and increase testosterone levels. Baxter was banned from CIS competition for the next two years; the OUA-champion Mustangs weren’t punished.

Baxter’s positive test wasn’t in a vacuum: there have been 47 positive tests out of the 5,200 CIS athletes tested since 1990.

Twenty-three of the positive tests have been for steroids, the most troubling fish in the performance-enhancing sea. That means one out of every 226 CIS athletes tested has tested positive for steroids. Given the small number of student-athletes tested (250 to 300 a year out of the 10,000-plus athletes who compete in CIS competition), it may be just the tip of the iceberg. If all student-athletes were tested and the one-in-226 proportion held true, there would be 44 athletes who tested positive for steroids this year alone.

Testing all student-athletes would be great, but it’s impossible at the current level of funding. The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, which does the testing, needs a substantial cash infusion. CIS could also benefit from testing sports other than football more frequently.

CIS should also adopt a policy that sees other team members tested in the wake of a positive test to determine if it’s an isolated incident. If even one other member tests positive, any championships that team holds should be revoked and they should potentially be banned from competition in the next season. Schools that intentionally violate eligibility rules face similar penalties: performance-enhancing drugs should get the same treatment.

Performance-enhancing drugs deprive sport of one of its crucial foundations: fair competition. It’s disappointing to have to wonder if a game’s victors were truly superior, or merely had better pharmaceutical products.

--Andrew Bucholtz

With doping scandals involving professional baseball players and Olympic athletes making waves in the sporting world, it’s tempting to push the panic button in light of Western football player Matt Baxter’s positive test for Letrazole.

But I’m willing to give our beloved CIS athletes the benefit of the doubt. As the saying goes, one bad apple doesn’t spoil the bunch. Or in this case, 23 bad apples don’t spoil a bunch of 5,200.

Of the 47 Canadian university athletes who have tested positive for doping violations since 1990, only 23 have been for legitimate performance-enhancing drugs. The rest have been for illegal substances such as cocaine and marijuana.

The CIS considers cocaine and marijuana doping violations to keep with WADA policy, but considering such substances performance-enhancing is ridiculous.

It has been well documented that steroids come with a slew of side-effects and provide only a slight edge, at most.

Professional athletes resort to steroid use to achieve this slight edge. When your on-field performance dictates whether you’ll be driving an Escalade or an Elantra, some people will stick anything in their bodies.

This incentive doesn’t exist for Canadian university athletes.

Very few CIS athletes are good enough to bank on a professional athletic career. They also receive plenty of education and supervision on the negative effects of steroids.

Even though U.S. college students are aware of the dangers of banned substances, they’re more likely to use them due to the much larger potential gains Canadian athletes don’t face.

The concept of “random testing” has always puzzled me. At the CIS level, testing randomly seems a waste of time and money. To me, finding out that a bench-warming basketball player is smoking marijuana is a waste of $50 and somebody’s time.

The CIS should test only premier athletes—they stand to gain the most from steroids, and could suffer the direst consequences from them.

--Mike Woods

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