Football: UW captains say they handled Zettler, but ...

Allan Maki's reporting on the Waterloo Warriors steroid saga has been solid, and he has some candid comments from two captains about how the team dealt with Nathan Zettler, the player whose arrest and pending criminal charges started this mess.
"Team captains Patrick McGarry and Dustin Zender, along with Zender’s father, Carl, the former receivers coach who resigned last week, said the university’s athletic department was notified by football head coach Dennis McPhee that Zettler may have been taking anabolic steroids.

" ... McGarry insists the players did all they could and did not look the other way when it came to dealing with Zettler. After the players posed for the 2009 team photo, and after McPhee addressed the players saying if any of them were using drugs they should leave the locker room, the eight team captains met with Zettler. They made the 23-year-old Waterloo native sign a behavioural contract established by the football team and patterned after one used by the university to outline athlete conduct.

" 'All the captains agreed to it,' McGarry said. '[Zettler] had to act like a freshman. He couldn’t miss practice. He had to report to the captains when he was going out. He did everything we asked. He stayed out of trouble. When I heard the news [of his arrest], it was a total shock to me. The steroids [for trafficking] came out of left field.' "
The operative words are "dealing with Zettler." It cannot be overlooked that there were "nine adverse results" out of 62 players tested. Are we to believe none of the eight captains had any suspicion about other players using, especially after one of their suspended teammates said doping is commonplace in CIS football?

Lo and behold, that was Waterloo vice-president Feridun Humdullahpur's exact rebuttal, as he showed how zero tolerance equals zero thought. Feel free to wonder when exactly the institution suddenly got religion (answer: when it became a news story).
"It’s just too many (positive tests) ... For all new students coming to Waterloo to study and also participate in athletics, this had to be heard loud and clear. (Using banned substances) will not be tolerated."
It's probably more like for all alumni and parents of new students, but that is neither here nor there. A couple more points below the jump:
  • Not to totally wear a tinfoil hat, but ...

    Friend of the blog and MUBL namesake Mark Masters has a story in the National Post stating:
    "The Department of Canadian Heritage, the federal body that funds the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, confirmed yesterday it will investigate the Waterloo situation. The department released a statement stating: 'A review is now underway to address the doping issues revealed recently at the University of Waterloo. This review will include the Canadian Interuniversity Sport organization, the University of Waterloo, the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport and Sport Canada.'

    "Paul Melia, the president of the CCES, which administers the testing programs for CIS and other amateur athletic organizations, said on Monday that an additional $1-million is likely needed to create an adequate drug-testing system in Canadian university sports. The CCES currently gets a little more than $5-million a year from the government via the Sport Canada agency to carry out all its testing programs."

    Does anyone read that as CCES, a government-funded body, using this to get more money from Parliament?

    It kind of evokes Jeff Bridges as The Dude in The Big Lebowski saying, "It's like Lenin said, you look for the one who will benefit."

    The CCES would like more money to carry out its work.

    Canadian Interuniversity Sport no doubt had fears it was on borrowed time with steroids. Windsor coach Mike Morencie stated in 2008 that he wouldn't cooperate with the weak testing program out of protest. There was a lot of talk that a prominent player went through that whole season after giving testers the slip at the '08 East-West Bowl.

    As an institution, Waterloo might have figured wrecking their football won-loss record for the next 10 years was a small price to pay for coming out ahead in the great image scrimmage among elite universities.

    The Warriors,, as graduating player Tom Bruce put it, "were locked up like dogs in the locker room" during team wide testing.

    Meantime, CCES did not test any players at neighbouring Laurier, which is more hard-core about football. That was apparently just human error. Paul Melia could not properly answer why that was when John Bower asked on Monday.

    That's enough coincidences to make a real head-scratcher, if not a conspiracy theory.

    At the end of The Big Lebowski, when he's figured it all out, Bridges confronts the titular character, "All you needed was a sap to pin it on! You'd just met me! .... You figured 'Oh, here's a loser', you know? A deadbeat, someone the square community won't give a s--- about."

    That sort of sums up the situation. The two national bodies get a soapbox and a little sunshine to use as disinfectant for an ongoing problem, without wrecking a program which has actually made the playoffs since Stephen Harper took office.

    Waterloo, by coming down excessively hard on bad behaviour, has a chance to enhance its reputation. It might come out clean as a whistle with alumni. It seems germane to point out Bob Copeland worked in alumni affairs prior to becoming athletic director.

  • Is this the end of Waterloo football?

    One school of thought it that UW's review might lead it to conclude rebuilding the program will be too daunting. The other maintains the school has put some money into new facilities, so it's not going to fold the team.

    There was some speculation about what the Warriors will look like in 2011. Maki talked to Carl Zender.
    "They’re going to lose 10 fifth-year players. We had 38 recruits (coming this summer) and about 15 fourth-year players. Where are they going to be in a year? That would leave a nucleus of about 35 kids. They killed the program.

    "This is not right at all. It's retribution."

    Former all-Canadian centre Paul Sguigna said much the same to the London Free Press, in an article about the OUA developing a new schedule.

    "This team was making strides. It will be very difficult to come back from this."

    Waterloo could be like York 2008 bad for the first season or two back.

  • It's not why it's being covered so much, it's how it's being covered so much.

    One has to love the cognitive dissonance the Toronto Star showed by being condescending about what CIS athletes and coaches work for ("the reward is small — winning a Canadian university championship is not going to make anyone rich") but still treating Waterloo as editorial page-worthy.

    Please understand that while this is a legit story, there is a sickly scent of Boomer slant to the coverage. That courses through much of old media since that is who buys a print newspaper (and by the way, newspapers have always made most of their money off advertising, not reader sales).

    The do-as-we-say, not-as-we-did generation has become born again by the chance to judge a younger generation. The media loves pandering to their delusion that they did not set a bad example, or that they never learned from their mistakes.

    Does CIS football have a steroid problem? Perhaps, but it's probably not much worse than that of society in general.

    That's all over the place in our culture. It's in the zero tolerance policies that relieves the leaders of our so-called education system of using critical reasoning. It's betrayed by the fact the first point of reference in that Star editorial is Ben Johnson's 1988 bust. In Boomer culture, that was an end-of-the-innocence moment, but to the rest of us, it was just modern life.

    So the fact some CIS athletes were caught doping is right in the ol' wheelhouse. The media gets to do their little sermon about how "contrary to Vince Lombardi, winning isn’t the only thing."

    Since it is CIS, it may be done without risk of damaging media properties since university teams are just happy for whatever scraps of coverage they receive. Unlike the reporters who dug up dirt on my baseball hero Barry Bonds years ago, no one had to sit in jail. It's win-win-win.

    They're hitting an easy target. That should help keep this in perspective.

  • A final insult:

    An irony to The Star's assertion "the reward is small" in CIS is that most of you are probably well-read enough to know what Lombardi actually said. He never said "winning isn't everything -- it's the only thing." David Maraniss' definitive biography, if memory serves, traced the quote to a long-forgotten John Wayne movie.

    What Lombardi actually said was, "Winning is not everything, but making the effort to win is."

    That actually seems close to the essence of CIS competition. Lifelong memories of accomplishing something together as a team are never small. Shame on The Star for thinking it could slip in a cheap shot and still stay on its high horse.
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  1. They went 3 and 5.

    At least if they were going to use steroids they could have used the kind that make you good at football.


  2. There's actually an argument the team's perpetually under-.500ness might have played a role.

  3. The dissolving of the program is certainly insidious if institutional brand-protection was the master plan, it’s also bloody brilliant.

    The Lions and Blues had better watch out; Machiavellianism is catchy.