Punishing the Innocent


On 9 April 2010, University of Waterloo (Ontario, Canada) football player Nathan Zettler was charged with possession of anabolic steroids and human growth hormone for the purpose of trafficking.  In response to the police investigation, the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) was invited by the university to conduct team-wide drug tests on all its players. 

There were nine adverse findings: one asserted refusal, four admissions of use and three adverse analytical findings.  Mr. Zettler’s trafficking case is being investigated further.

Canadian Interuniversity Sport subsequently suspended first year linebacker Jordan Meredith who had tested positive for Tamoxifen and second year linebacker Joe Surgenor who had admitted to steroid use – both had admitted their guilt, waived their rights to a hearing and accepted a two-year period of ineligibility thereby enabling CCES to disclose their identities.  The remaining cases are pending.

Last week, the University of Waterloo suspended the entire team and cancelled its season. 

Third year linebacker Brandon Krukowski was charged with possession and trafficking of drugs yesterday.

The Waterloo Region Record newspaper just published an article I wrote entitled, ‘University has punished the innocent.’ It was also re-printed in the Guelph Mercury. Here are a few excerpts:


The university’s suspension of its football team for the upcoming season because nine of its 62 players were caught doping is being portrayed as an act of courage and conviction. The university is being praised in some circles for standing up and doing the right thing. This righteous indignation, however, misses a bigger point.

The innocent are being punished for the crimes of the guilty.

Where does Waterloo get off suspending non-guilty players?

The Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) policy on doping control (Policy 90.10) is silent on punishing innocent players and sanctioning teams for the actions of its individual players.

Affected coaches will be on paid administrative leave — meaning they will be paid to not coach, so other than their egos and, to an extent, their reputations, they will not suffer.

But it’s a different story for the student athletes who did not dope but who are being penalized as if they did. They are guilty of no crime.

Waterloo’s suspension of next year’s season has not only broken the players’ hearts but also possibly a contract between the university and these student-athletes. To wit, these particular student-athletes went to Waterloo to play football and get a university education. In return for representing Waterloo on the gridiron, the university in effect promised a football team to play on and classes in which to enrol. In this light, the season’s cancellation is troubling.

This is not an instance of Canadian Interuniversity Sport suspending the University of Waterloo’s football team because of a systemic failure akin to Southern Methodist University’s suspension in 1987. In a precedent setting decision, the National Collegiate Athletic Association suspended Southern Methodist’s football team because its program was “built on a legacy of wrongdoing, deceit and rule violations.” No such allegation has been levelled at the University of Waterloo. In fact, Canadian Interuniversity Sport chief executive officer Marg McGregor says that they “are not taking the view that this is an isolated problem at the University of Waterloo.”

We live in a country governed by the rule of law. Canadian Interuniversity Sport applied its rules – to which all student-athletes are bound – and suspended the nine guilty student-athletes. What rule was broken that gives Waterloo the right to cancel a season and penalize students who have done no wrong?


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One Comment on “Punishing the Innocent”

  1. Kris Says:

    sounds a little bit like “Coach Carter!” in places.
    Was there any suggestion that the other athletes looked the other way or covered for the guilty students?


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