The University of B.C. Thunderbirds’ football team has another post-season surprise.
On Tuesday, four days after the team ended the 2012 season with a 2-6 record, kicker/punter Billy Pavlopoulos was banned for two years by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) because of a positive steroid test. The Georgetown, Ont. product, who wore number 1 in 2011, did not play in 2012, but was still listed on the T-Birds’ website.
Pavlopoulos was a third-year star in 2011 when UBC forfeited its 6-2 record after the Athletics Department committed an administrative error that gave another player an extra season of eligibility.
Pavlopoulos’s ban was handed down Oct. 16 by CCES arbitrator John Sanderson, but the announcement was not made until Tuesday. Pavlopoulos cannot participate in organized sports recognized by the Canadian Anti-Doping Program for two years, retroactive to Jan. 9, the date of his urine test.
Pavlopoulos was suspended Feb. 21 after stanozolol was detected in his sample. He testified Aug. 16 at a closed-door appeal hearing in Vancouver that he did not knowingly ingest the steroid. He admitted that he bought a container of a supplement called 1MR (One More Rep) in Ontario during a break last December and learned it contained 1,3 dimethylamylamine, an unlisted stimulant permitted only for off-season use. He claimed none of the supplements he ingested listed stanozolol as an ingredient, but acknowledged he read product disclaimers that said ingredients may be banned by certain sports organizations.
"Clearly, he knew that athletes bear the ultimate responsibility for the products they ingest," wrote Sanderson, who refused Pavlopoulos’s plea for an eight to 12-month ban.
Stanozolol is the same steroid that was found in urine samples provided by Ben Johnson at the Seoul 1988 Olympics. Johnson tested positive and was stripped of his 100 metre gold medal and world record.
T-Birds coach Shawn Olson admitted Tuesday that he knew about the Pavlopoulos case for more than eight months.
“As soon as we found out about it, he was suspended from the team,” Olson told the Courier. “It's not something we condone.”
In separate, late-August interviews with the Courier, neither Olson nor associate athletic director Theresa Hanson would confirm or deny a UBC football player had tested positive or that Pavlopoulos had left the team because of the result of a doping test.
“Where did you get that information?” was Hanson’s reaction on Aug. 30.
Said Olson on Aug. 31: “I don't know anything more than he's not here because of personal reasons.”
Sanderson’s ruling said Pavlopoulos had participated in a mandatory CCES anti-doping “learning module” in August 2009 that included a section on the potential dangers of sport supplements and nutrition products.
After the March 2010 University of Waterloo doping scandal, in which nine football players tested positive or refused to give samples, the True Sport Clean 101 E-Learning Course became mandatory for CIS players. A 66 per cent quiz score is required to complete the hour-long online course.
But, the Courier has learned that UBC offered no formal training or advisory sessions to T-Birds players before Pavlopoulos tested positive.
A Feb. 6, 2012 letter from the UBC Freedom of Information office said: “We have been unable to locate any records in response to your request. We were informed that UBC Varsity football student athletes, coaches, team officials and support staff have not attended any anti-doping seminars or workshops held from Jan. 1, 2008 to present by Canadian Interuniversity Sport, Canada West, Football Canada and/or Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport.”
Hanson said the UBC student athlete handbook includes anti-doping advice. In August, UBC hired representatives of the Taylor Hooton Foundation to give a seminar. The Texas non-profit organization’s namesake was a 16-year-old high school baseball player whose 2003 depression-related suicide was linked to steroid use.
“Prior to the e-learning, I want to say it was around 2007 or ‘08, UBC as well as many other CIS schools, we would invite a CCES-approved doping control officer to provide education seminars,” Hanson said in August. “We don't babysit our student athletes, no one possibly can be with them 24 hours a day. Our role is to educate them the best we can and hopefully they'll make the right decision.”
On Tuesday, Olson said there are no other UBC football players who have tested positive for a banned substance.
Olson, coincidentally, was the first UBC athlete to test positive for a banned substance. In 2000, the then-quarterback withdrew his nomination for the CIS most outstanding player award after he was found to have used the banned stimulant Energen.
In 2010, Olson told the Courier: “Generally, a kid using steroids is not a bad person. They’re kids that are trying to find a way to excel and they’re finding the wrong way.”
--with a file from Megan Stewart