An ex-University of B.C. Thunderbirds kicker punted for a positive steroid test said "I'd probably be in a different situation now" if the team had received formal education about sport supplements and banned substances.
Billy Pavlopoulos of Georgetown, Ont. was banned two years, retroactive to Jan. 9, when two Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport doping testers entered an off-season team meeting and demanded urine samples from Pav-lopoulos and nine other players.
At a closed-door, Aug. 16 hearing, Pavlopoulos, 21, did not dispute the positive test for stanozo-lol, but denied knowingly ingesting the steroid. He said it would have made him "too bulky." He claimed it entered his system as an unlisted ingredient in the 1MR sport supplement he ingested during off-season training.
"I never had the desire to go and take steroids," Pavlopoulos told the Courier this week. "Especially with my specific position, I need to be flexible."
Arbitrator John Sanderson's Oct. 16 decision, released Oct. 30, rejected Pavlopoulos's plea for a reduced ban.
Pavlopoulos had participated in a mandatory CCES online, anti-doping "learning module" in August 2009 that included a section on the potential dangers of sport supplements and nutrition products.
"I kind of just blew through it because I didn't even work out at the time," Pavlopoulos said.
He said there was a condensed, annual update for the database, but he was not required to attend a team meeting where players were taught about the risks and rules.
"Because I'm a kicker, a different position, I was exempted from a lot of the meetings," he said.
The result of a Freedom of Information request to UBC corroborates Pavlopoulos. A Feb. 6 letter from the UBC Freedom of Information office said: "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."
UBC associate director of intercollegiate sport Theresa Hanson did not respond to an Oct. 31 interview request. In August, she said: "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."
Hanson said the UBC student-athlete handbook includes anti-doping advice and that UBC hired representatives of the Taylor Hooton Foundation to give an August seminar. The Texas non-profit organization's namesake was a 16year-old high school baseball player whose 2003 depression-related suicide was linked to steroid use. Coach Shawn Olson also regularly discusses his 2000 positive test for a banned stimulant that tainted his otherwise stellar tenure as UBC's quarterback.
Pavlopoulos said his hard work over three years at UBC has been tarnished by the test and the suggestion that he is a cheater.
"My main goal for this year was to play in the East West Bowl and I had earned that and I couldn't participate because of what was going on," he said of last May's CIS all-star game in London, Ont. "That was definitely a hard thing."
Pavlopoulos made 13 of 19 field goal attempts in 2011, including a 47-yarder. He averaged 43 yards per punt and 47.5 yards on kickoffs. He represented his teammates on the athletic council and even dressed as the Thunderbird mascot during UBC basketball and volleyball games.
Pavlopoulos, who was suspended Feb. 21, now studies at Humber College in Toronto. He hopes to resume play next year at a U.S. junior college and dreams of being drafted by a Canadian Football League team.