Warriors transfer to WLU

In the wake of a steroid scandal that has been referred to as the largest in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) history, the University of Waterloo announced earlier this month that it would be suspending its football program for the 2010 season.

The action comes as a result of nine players on the Warriors’ roster testing positive for performance enhancing drugs in a team-wide test conducted by the CIS and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) on March 31.

“This has been a very difficult and measured decision,” said UW’s athletics director Bob Copeland. “We need to take a step backwards before we can move forward and consider many broad issues beyond the program itself.”

What prompted the CCES to perform the tests was the arrest of former Warriors’ wide receiver Nathan Zettler for trafficking steroids this past March. Since Zettler’s arrest, former Warriors Eric Legare, Matthew Valeriote and Brandon Krukowski have also been charged in connection with the case.

Only two of players who tested positive on March 31st have had their names released -linebackers Joe Surgenor and Jason Meredith- as the other seven guilty parties have opted to appeal the result and have a second sample tested.

Both Surgenor and Meredith have received two-year suspensions from playing CIS football.
With the team shut down for the year, UW administration, along with retired chief of the Waterloo Regional Police Services Larry Gravill, will be conducting a full investigation of the program.

While the team’s coaching staff has been put on paid administrative leave, the players have been left to choose between sitting out the season or attempting to transfer.

“There’s no doubt that this [decision] has hit many of the players hard… and we feel for these players,” said Copeland. “But we also understand why the university needs to take this course of action.”

The players of UW have not reacted quietly, however. The day after the program was suspended, the players held a press conference at which they condemned the university’s decision.

“We want to make it clear that we condone the suspension of the players who tested positive, but our question is why go further?” said Warriors’ quarterback Luke Balch. “We could have set up outreach programs, we could have all done random testing throughout the season, our team would’ve done anything the university asked of us, if we were still able to play.”

For Balch and a number of other senior players, the suspension of Waterloo’s football program will mean the end of their football careers.

“We’re not able to transfer due to academic reasons, so that’s it for us,” he said. “This is my last day as a Waterloo Warrior, a name I used to wear with pride.”

The players have now begun the task of attempting to obtain transfers to schools throughout the CIS. Being put in this position, the players of UW have garnered sympathy throughout the CIS football community.

“I feel very badly for the 90 percent – that’s coaches, players, staff- that end up becoming victims of this decision when they had nothing to do with it,” said Laurier’s head coach and manager of football operations Gary Jeffries. “I certainly have a lot of compassion for them.”

In addition to the testing of the 62 players at UW, the CCES also performed tests at Guelph and McMaster, where there have been no positive results so far.

The Golden Hawks were originally supposed to be among the teams tested, however, the tests never took place.

According to Laurier’s athletics director Peter Baxter, the CCES showed up at the WLU athletic complex on March 31 while the football team was practicing at University Stadium. It is CCES policy to keep the time of their arrival confidential prior to the testing, and the majority of Laurier’s athletics department was therefore at the Waterloo Inn for the Outstanding Women of Laurier luncheon.

In the end, the CCES officials never made their way to the stadium and decided to, as Baxter puts it, “Abort the mission.”

According to Baxter, the CCES is now testing players at their summer residences. Since early April, at least two Laurier players have been tested, with neither test coming back positive.

Both Baxter and Jeffries also confirmed that multiple UW players have contacted the Golden Hawks, and yesterday, 2009 OUA all-star receiver Dustin Zender, and defensive backs Mitch Nicholson and Patrick McGarry became the first three Warriors to join the Hawks.

“The three kids that have committed thus far are all going to contribute,” said Jeffries. “But there’s no guarantees for any of them, we made it clear to them before they came here that they would have to compete for their spot.”

The Warriors’ withdrawal from the 2010 season has also forced Ontario University Athletics (OUA) conveners to redo the schedule. Each team will now receive a bye when they were originally scheduled to play UW, which has brought both good news and bad news for the Hawks.

“The good part is we get to have our rivalry game with Western, ” said Baxter. “The downside is we were supposed to play Waterloo in week three and we always look forward to the battle of Waterloo, and financially it’s always a good gate for that game.”