Athletes at Navy failed drug tests

2 football players suspended in 2005

5 others possibly took enhancers

Sun Exclusive

November 15, 2006|By Bradley Olson | Bradley Olson,SUN REPORTER

The Naval Academy acknowledged yesterday that two football players were suspended from play for the 2005 season after testing positive for using performance-enhancing drugs, and five others were identified as also having possibly taken the drugs.

Even though military law permitted the seven players to be court-martialed or expelled, the punishment administered through the academy's internal disciplinary system was to restrict them to their dormitory for several weeks, except for classes and football activities, said sources familiar with the investigation. They asked not to be identified out of fear of retribution.

In response to inquiries by The Sun, football coach Paul Johnson and Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said yesterday that two players, whose identities they would not confirm, had tested positive for banned substances. Both said the midshipmen unknowingly took a supplement, which sources identified as "1-AD," a form of androstenediol, often called a prosteroid because, when taken, it combines with natural substances in the body to produce artificial levels of testosterone.

Random urine tests required by the National Collegiate Athletic Association indicated in January 2005 that the two athletes had tested positive for androstenedione and 1-testosterone, presumably from consuming the 1-AD, according to sources familiar with the academy's handling of the matter. The two substances were banned by the NCAA before the 2004 season and listed among prohibited substances on a form that academy athletes must sign.

The two players banned for a year under NCAA requirements told naval investigators they were unaware the substance they took was prohibited. One of them is back on the roster this season; the other left the team.

However, another player, a starter, was allowed to continue playing despite having told investigators he had used the substance repeatedly in early 2005 without knowing it was banned. Three additional players identified as users in the investigation were also allowed to play in 2005 and this season. All are seniors now. The final remaining player later left the academy.

Johnson said he instructed players to discard any banned supplements after the positive tests. He and Gladchuk defended the Naval Academy's response to the tests and said that all NCAA rules were followed.

"It wasn't a big deal because of the way it happened," Johnson said. "It wasn't like somebody was popping steroids."

The academy wasn't required by the NCAA to impose any sanctions in these cases, besides the two who tested positive. Mary Wilfert, associate director of education services for the NCAA, said the association calls for institutions that find students have been using banned substances to apply their own rules.

Two Air Force Academy athletes caught in 2004 with steroids were court-martialed, however. They were later acquitted. An Air Force Academy spokesman said yesterday that players who admit to using banned substances are handled exactly as those who test positive through urinalysis.

Many civilian universities also have tough standards. The University of North Carolina's zero-tolerance policy automatically dismisses athletes who test positive on steroids or other related drugs.

The Naval Academy said Col. David Fuquea, former deputy commandant of midshipmen and now deputy Navy athletic director, who oversaw the academy's internal disciplinary hearings of the seven cases, was unavailable to discuss this story.

Through an academy spokesman, several of the players declined to speak with The Sun.

When asked about the matter, the academy released a statement saying that the NCAA randomly tested 26 football and wrestling team members in January 2005 as part of its year-round testing program, and that "two individuals tested positive for a banned anabolic agent."

This sparked an internal investigation that uncovered five other student-athletes who might have used a banned agent. But further testing cleared those players, the academy statement said. The academy would not confirm the identity of the players.

During the Naval Criminal Investigative Service's probe, the starter told investigators that he took 1-AD pills repeatedly in early 2005, according to sources. The pills, often called "andro" in sports circles, are similar to what Mark McGwire took in 1998 when he broke Roger Maris' single-season record for home runs.

One player bought more than a dozen bottles of pills before Christmas break in 2004 and distributed them to other team members, sources said. At that time, androstenediol was widely available as a legal dietary supplement, both over the counter and online, although it was banned by the NCAA and was outlawed by Congress, except for prescription use, on Jan. 22, 2005.

Such substances can elude detection in urine tests if sufficient time elapses between consumption and the test.

At least two of the players admitted using the substances, sources said, but they denied knowing it was banned or illegal.

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