By Caroline Alphonso
A single drop of Ben Gotham’s urine carried the weight of his team last year.
Every school year, certified doping officers come knocking on Ontario university team doors with surprise visits or 36-hour notices.
The Ryerson men’s basketball player was randomly picked along with for other players for drug testing.
“It was a bit awkward at first,” Gotham said. “In theory, it’s needed, but it’s still kind of funny.”
Testing is done by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport on behalf of that Canadians Interuniversity Athletic Union.
“We’re not going to a blanket testing,” said Lenora Parker, drug free sport manager at the centre, “but [the testing] is good in terms of a deterrent.”
Parker said approximately 375 CIAU athletes were teted for banned substances in 1997.
In that year alone, three university football players were kicked off the team for using steroids.
One was from Ottawa, another from Longueuil, Que., and the third from Montreal.
Banned substances in competition can range anywhere from steroids to Tylenol Cold and Flu medication.
Gotham said he had a cold before the nationals last season, be couldn’t take over-the-counter cough syrup.
Instead, he went to Ryerson’s health clinic for medicine that would be allowed by the CCES.
To know what are acceptable substances according to CCES rules, Ryerson players, as well as those across the country, get a course on banned substances before they begin their seasons.
Ryerson’s athletes will meet for their drug awareness course on Sept. 29.
“[The lecture] is dry as can be,” said Lynn Kaak, Ryerson’s head athletic therapist, “but it’s something.”
Kaak adds that university-level sports in Canada is one step from the Olympic in a lot of sports and it’s wise to make players aware of the banned substances before they reach that level.
So far, Ryerson has had a clean bill of health.
But just because there’s never been a problem, it doesn’t mean there never will be.
“[Drug testing] is to level the playing field,” Kaak said. “If you take drugs, you’re cheating.”
In light of a recent rash of positive drug tests at the recent Pan American Games in Winnipeg, more schools and organizations are fighting for drug-free sports.
With rookies joining teams, it’s important to get them quickly and inform them of the zero tolerance to drugs at the CIAU level.
Tom Huisman, director of operations and development for the CIAU, said it’s especially important to educate first-year athletes.
“With the pressures [of entering university] you wouldn’t want a recent high school graduate to be in a situation they don’t want to be,” he said.