06/12/2015 04:04 EDT | Updated 06/12/2016 05:59 EDT

CFL cuts ties with the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport over drug policy row

The CFL has cut ties with the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport in a dispute over the league's drug policy.

A CFL spokesman confirmed the move in an email to The Canadian Press on Friday, which came after the head of the only laboratory in Canada sanctioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency slammed the league earlier this week. The CCES also confirmed the decision in a release on Friday evening.

Christiane Ayotte said that her lab would not test CFL samples moving forward because of the league's refusal to suspend first-time offenders or uphold drug bans handed down in university.

The CFL spokesman said Friday that the league is "actively pursuing new partners to do our testing" and that "we remain committed to the health and safety of our players and the integrity of our game," before adding: "We remain open to evolving our policy in a way that works for the CFL in partnership with the CFLPA."

After this week's developments, however, it won't involve testing overseen by the CCES.

In response to Ayotte's criticism, WADA said in a statement Wednesday that the CFL's drug policy has "room for improvement" and that it would welcome an "open dialogue with the league." The league said at the time no meetings are planned.

CFL president and chief operating officer Michael Copeland said Wednesday the league is proud of its drug policy, pointing to its focus on education, rather than suspension, following an initial positive test.

"Everybody gravitates to thinking there's only one solution," he said in a phone interview. "I think we're really forward-thinking in the development of our policy and we're really happy with the results."

Players who test positive a second time are handed a three-game suspension under the current system, while a third positive test would result in a year-long ban. Copeland said to date no player has had a second positive test since the program started back in 2010.

But Ayotte said Wednesday the policy does not go far enough to rid the league of performance-enhancing drugs.

"I've been here for 30 years. I know what we've achieved," she said in a phone interview. "I know what kind of relationship we've got with Major League Baseball and the players' association, with the NHL, Major League Soccer and the NBA.

"The CFL, by comparison, is really doing nothing. They have a program, but the program is not at all to the (acceptable) level. This is our Canadian league and I cannot accept that."

Ayotte was especially bothered by the CFL declining to uphold drug suspensions given to players in university, meaning that they are free to join the league after leaving school. Three of the five players who tested positive at the CFL combine were selected in last month's draft.

"For me that is the core of the problem," said Ayotte. "The CFL's behaviour has direct repercussions on our sons and daughters ... training in our universities and colleges and using steroids."

Copeland said Wednesday the league was disappointed with the positive tests of the university players in question and is reconsidering that aspect of its policy. He added it's difficult to suspend players for indiscretions in other leagues, but did say the positive tests at the combine will count as a first offence.


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