Riders’ A.C. Leonard apologizes following suspensions: ‘That’s not who I am as a person’

Photo courtesy: Saskatchewan Roughriders/Electric Umbrella/Liam Richards

Saskatchewan Roughriders’ defensive end A.C. Leonard spoke to the media for the first time on Tuesday after drawing a pair of suspensions from the CFL.

“I feel terrible about it. These last couple weeks have been very, very hard on me. I feel really bad,” said Leonard. “That’s not who I am as a person. That’s not in my character. That’s not how I want to handle myself.”

Leonard was suspended for two games after failing to provide a sample for drug testing following the Labour Day Classic on Sept. 5. An additional one-game suspension was levied the following week for “verbal abuse and unacceptable behaviour” towards doping control officers.

The 29-year-old declined to offer any new details regarding the incident, but expressed remorse for his actions. He apologized to his teammates, his coaches, his family, and Rider Nation for the “whole situation” and the “negative press” he caused the team. He also thanked the club for its support during this challenging time.

“I appreciate them standing behind me and working with me through the whole situation,” said Leonard. “It means so much to me. I was down on myself for a couple of weeks. Knowing that they have my back and my teammates have my back … is very encouraging.”

Head coach Craig Dickenson indicated that the team will not pursue further discipline against Leonard, suggesting that he’s fulfilled his obligations through his two suspensions.

“I think he’s doing a nice job of taking accountability and responsibility for a poor decision and I think he’s expressed remorse and apologized to the people he needs to,” said Dickenson.

“We just want to make sure he’s OK. We always want to make sure our players are healthy — mind, body, and spirit — and he is. He’s remorseful for what happened. We support A.C. and we care about him as a person, not only as a football player, because that’s first and foremost what he’s going to be doing for the rest of his life is being A.C. Leonard.”

Leonard indicated that he’s spoken with everyone who was there the night that he was unable to provide sample and apologized to each of them. He said that he and the drug officer spent time getting to know each other as they remained at Mosaic Stadium together until 2:00 a.m. — seven hours after the game finished.

The veteran pass-rusher said he’s struggled to provide a sample for drug testing earlier in his career, though he’s always managed to do so eventually. He indicated that he will ensure he provides a sample for all drug tests moving forward even if they require him to sleep overnight at the facility.

Leonard insisted that his inability to provide a sample for drug testing had nothing to do with trying to conceal a performance-enhancing substance from the league.

“I have literally nothing to hide at all,” he said. “I’m willing to cooperate with the league and do whatever it takes for the rest of my career if I have to. If I have to test every week, that’s fine with me. I’m willing to do whatever it takes.”

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.