They lost their season for this?

As the 2010 Ontario University Athletics (OUA) football season gets underway it’s difficult not to feel sorry for the young men who would have been taking the field for the University of Waterloo’s (UW) Waterloo Warriors.

After nine of the 62 players on the UW roster tested positive for performance enhancing drugs, the school decided to suspend the entire team for the season, an unprecedented move in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) history. The players were then left to choose between transferring or sitting out the 2010 season.

While most of the former Warriors have found new teams, many no longer have guaranteed starting spots. A great number have had to move to completely new cities and many have had to orchestrate complex credit transfers in order to ensure that they still earn a degree.

And now it seems like everything they’ve gone through was a waste.

The main reason given by UW’s administration for the decision to shut the program down for a year was the need to conduct an internal review that would identify the root causes of the steroid scandal and ensure that something like this could never happen again.

That review – which was done by retired Waterloo Regional Police Services chief Larry Gravill and former UW professor Mary Thompson – was completed and released by Aug. 18, over three weeks before the OUA season was scheduled to open.

And its findings were far from groundbreaking.

In terms of root causes, the report doesn’t say much beyond the standard idea that young football players feel pressure to perform well and get noticed by professional scouts and use performance enhancing drugs to get an edge on their competition.

Wasn’t that on an episode of Friday Night Lights?

As far as recommendations, the report calls for increased education amongst the high school and university-aged about the dangers of steroid-use as well as increased testing at the CIS level.

While these are good recommendations, it seems as though they could have been made without an internal review and furthermore, without cancelling the Warriors’ season.

The big question in my mind is if this report – and its fairly common-sense findings – was able to be completed by mid-August, why did the entire UW football season have to be cancelled for it to be performed?

This goes back to what made this decision unfair in the first place, the punishment of so many for the transgressions of so few.

Nine players out of 62 tested positive for steroids, clearly that signals that there is a problem and an investigation is needed. But why not simply suspend the nine players who were caught cheating, conduct the review and allow the innocent players to continue exercising their right to play football for their school?

Some have simply chalked this up to a rash overreaction on the part of UW administration. While others – namely the UW players who were affected by this decision – have suggested that the CIS put pressure on the university to make the harsh decision in order to make an example out of the team.

Only those responsible for making the decision know the true reasoning behind it, however, one thing is clear: the Waterloo Warriors have lost their 2010 football season, and there doesn’t seem to be any real reason for it.