WADA director general David Howman released a statement Monday saying the league needs to overhaul a system that undermines drug education of amateur athletes at lower levels by failing to suspend players who test positive while competing in other leagues.
“WADA believes that the CFL’s anti-doping program is outdated and, quite frankly, irresponsible,” said Howman. “We can’t stand idly by while a so-called professional organization openly ignores drug-taking by college athletes and, in fact, welcomes them to the professional (ranks) with contracts, money and a ‘promise’ to educate them away from drug-taking.
“This essentially means that all the educational anti-doping work done at college level and below in Canada is undermined as those who flout the rules … (and) are rewarded with contracts by the CFL. We believe that clean athletes in sports across the world would be very disappointed to learn of this approach in Canada and that if the CFL respects clean athletes in its sport, they would support them by changing this attitude.”
The CFL/CFLPA’s 2010 drug policy states that an initial positive test requires a player to be subjected to mandatory testing for two years, but the player is neither named publicly or suspended. A second offence results in a three-game suspension, while a third positive test means the player receives a year-long ban. The CFL has said there have been no second positive tests since the program was enacted.
Five university players did test positive at the CFL combine this spring, but three were drafted into the league anyway and signed to contracts. The CFL said those players will be treated as first-time offenders under the its drug protocol, however their suspensions handed down in university would not be upheld in the professional ranks.
The league and its players’ union said recently those positive tests were “deeply concerning” and that they are “actively looking at ways to further deter the use of physically harmful performance enhancing drugs prior to players becoming professionals.”
Monday’s statement from WADA is just the latest volley of criticism directed at the CFL in recent weeks over its drug policy.
Dr. Christiane Ayotte, the head of the only WADA-accredited drug-testing laboratory in Canada, said earlier this month her facility would no longer test CFL samples because the league does not suspend first-time offenders.
The CFL responded days later by cutting ties with the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, which oversees WADA drug testing in Canada. WADA said the league is now sending its samples to the United States.
Howman said WADA has reached out to the CFL to discuss its drug policy, but “has yet to receive any acknowledgment.”