Drug policy has players’ attention

Let there be no doubt, according to one of the most tenured performers in the CFL, the league’s new drug testing policy definitely has the attention of players in the wake of a two-game suspension issued Wednesday to Hamilton’s Brandon Banks.

B.C. Lions defensive back Ryan Phillips (above), who doubles as a player rep for the CFL Players Association on the CFL team, felt remorse personally for Banks as a result of the penalty handed out in accordance with the program instituted earlier this season.

However, Phillips said Banks and every other player in the league is accountable for their actions and said the Hamilton returner, like two others who have already been penalized for their actions under the policy, are responsible.

“I feel sorry for Brandon Banks because he’s a great player, but the policy came in to weed out these types of things,” the 12-year Lions veteran said. “Everybody has to be accountable for their approach and to their career. As far as information that’s the duty of the player reps so it is passed around, but it is still the responsibility to play by the rules.”

Banks, according to a league release, tested positive for  methylenedioxyamphetamine, also known as MDA, a recreational drug. He is the third player in less than two months to be suspended in accordance to the policy that was instituted prior to the start of the season.

The Hamilton returner, who will be severely missed as the Ticats make a late run to secure a division title, apologized to his teammates Tuesday and was emotional facing reporters.

The league had been severely criticized for its failure to implement a policy in past failed negotiations with the CFLPA. However, it is unmistakable, Phillips said, for players to be unaware of the changes this year.

Representatives for the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, who are given the task of performing the random tests, have been conspicuous by their presence all season around the Lions, going so far in some cases to pull players off the team bus after road games to provide samples.

“They’re here 24/7,” Phillips said.

The new policy calls for players who test positive for banned substances to be given a two-game suspension, nine games for a second offence and a lifetime ban for a third. All players who test positive become subject to mandatory testing.

Phillips said some players are unsure what drugs are contained on the banned list, though was unaware of the specifics in the Banks case. Nonetheless, the B.C. rep maintained awareness falls on the part of players and the chapter chairmen who represent them.

“You need to have a responsibility to yourself and the team,” he said.

LIONS TALES: A leg injury suffered in the second half Friday against Winnipeg has sidelined Canadian defensive tackle Jabar Westerman and will force the Lions to make some changes along their defensive line when they try to snap a two-game losing streak and take the season series Saturday against Edmonton. Most notably, Mich’ael Brooks is back at practice and working alongside Bryant Turner. It’s the first time both players have lined up alongside each other as starters. David Menard will likely replace Westerman in the starting lineup for the Lions, who will keep Jeremiah Johnson at tailback on offence. B.C.. must win by five points to take the season series with Edmonton and remain in the West Division during the playoffs.

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