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Doping lab won't test CFL players due to lack of punishment

06/08/2015 11:21 EDT | Updated 06/08/2016 05:59 EDT
The only Canadian lab conducting accredited doping tests won't test CFL players because the league doesn't suspend a first offence and won't acknowledge university bans, according to its head of doping control.

Christiane Ayotte is the director of Montreal-based INRS-Insitut Armand-Frappier Research Centre, the only permanent drug testing facility in Canada approved by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

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On Monday, she told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morningshe refuses to test football players in Canada because they face no consequences for doping violations.

"What is the point in testing and issuing positive results if nothing is being done?" Ayotte said. "That puts us in contradiction of our code of ethics that comes with WADA."

She said her decision was prompted by five Canadian university players who tested positive for anabolic steroids, or anabolic agents that have similar effects to steroids, in March.

Four athletes from Saint Mary's University in Halifax and one from the University of Laval tested positive during routine doping tests and each received a four-year ban from university football.

3 athletes drafted after testing positive

Those test results didn't stop teams from drafting three of the athletes and Ayotte said that's because the punishments do not transfer to the professional level.

"I found the CFL was silent," Ayotte said. "They were recruiting dopers."

The CFL's policy on preventing the use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), crafted in 2010, stipulates a player who commits a violation of the policy is subject to mandatory testing for two years after the finding.

The player would then be tested up to eight times over that period during the season and off-season, and the player can volunteer to join a drug counselling program.

There is no suspension for a first offence. A second offence carries a three-game suspension, while a third offence leads to a year-long suspension.

Since the policy was put in place, the league has not disclosed any positive tests.

Ayotte said she thinks the league does not conduct enough drug tests and it is not serious enough about testing for PEDs, so her centre has taken a stand.

"I felt that we had a responsibility not continuing to give a gold stamp of approval," she said.

Lifetime bans for university players urged

Ayotte suggests a player who tests positive for PEDs while in university or college should not be drafted or recruited because it rewards cheaters.

She also believes Canadian student athletes carry a mentality they need to dope to reach their potential and that only reinforces that belief. Ayotte said athletes who test positive should be kicked out of university football.

"It may look tough, but what about the other young men who are trying to get there and use no dope to get there because they think it's a fair play," she said.

Ayotte suggested the House of Commons hold hearings similar to the U.S. Congress, which got involved after Major League Baseball's highly publicized doping era. That, she said, might put pressure on Canadian professional sports leagues to tighten rules around doping violations.

The CFL did not return calls for comment. The league kicks off its pre-season schedule on Monday night in Hamilton when the Tiger-Cats host the Ottawa Redblacks.

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