Cocaine in curling

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 6:55 AM ET

Curling is in the big leagues now.

"I guess that's one way to look at it," said Neil Houston, of the Canadian Curling Association, of the first positive drug test in curling history.

Joe Frans, the second on Wayne Middaugh's Ontario team, it was revealed officially yesterday, tested positive for cocaine at the 2005 Edmonton Brier. He's been suspended from the sport for two years.

"We've known it for some time," said Houston, competition director for the CCA.

"We've known it since the first of April.

"It was supposed to be released Thursday. But apparently a reporter called and they decided to move it ahead."

As the reporter in question, all of a sudden I question the ethics of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport.

It was this columnist who found out about the positive test and phoned Christine Ayott at the Montreal WADA drug-testing centre.

She said she could neither confirm nor deny, but referred me to call Paul Melia, the chief executive officer of the Canadian Centre of Ethics in Sport. I left a message. Suddenly the release was moved ahead two days.

The release announced: "Mr. Frans' anti-doping violation was a result of his urine sample returning adverse analytical finding for cocaine metabolic, a prohibited substance on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) prohibited list.

RIGHT TO A HEARING

"In response to the CCES's notification of the adverse findings, Mr. Frans exercised his right under the rules of the Canadian Anti-Doping Program to a hearing before an independent arbitrator for a final determination.

"The independent arbitrator determined that Mr. Frans's adverse analytical finding constitutes an anti-doping rule violation and imposed a sanction of two years' sport ineligibility and permanent ineligibility for federal sport funding."

Middaugh said he was "surprised."

The skip said he'd heard the same rumour that caused this columnist to make the calls yesterday.

"I didn't know officially. I heard the rumour that somebody had tested positive at the Edmonton Brier. I also knew of the people tested, two were from my team.

"But it was definitely a surprise."

Frans's suspension is irrelevant to Middaugh. He bounced Frans and third Graeme McCarrel from his team at the end of the season. He said he had not heard from Frans, who played for John Morris at the 2001 Canadian Olympic Trials and for Morris in losing the final of the 2002 Brier to Randy Ferbey's Edmonton rink.

"I have not heard from Joe since we parted ways a week after the final event of the season. I made some changes. Joe and Graeme are no longer part of the team."

Frans, 29, who skipped Ontario in 1993 and 1994 at the Canadian juniors, wasn't available.

CAN'T PLAY IN THAT

The suspension, according to Brier boss Warren Hansen, "would prevent Frans from playing any event which leads to a world championship in the next two years."

Middaugh believes it would keep him off the World Curling Tour as well "because we accumulate points toward qualifying for the Olympic Trials."

Middaugh did not qualify for the December Canadian Olympic Trials in Halifax.

"It's unfortunate," said Hansen, who said there was no attempt to cover up the test by the curling body. "You have to go through a process and give the athlete an opportunity to challenge it. That's what was taking place the last couple of months."

Houston said drug testing falls under his jurisdiction.

"It comes through my area of responsibility. In the middle of April I received a letter telling me the analytical findings. But until it's been processed and gone through arbitration, it doesn't get released. We tested four curlers at the Edmonton Brier on a random testing basis during the round robin."

He wouldn't name the curlers, but said none were from Ferbey's Brier championship rink. Both Scott Pfeifer and Marcel Rocque were tested after the gold-medal game at the Worlds in Victoria.

The only previous suspension in curling having to do with drug testing involved an American fifth man who had retired and refused to take an out-of-competition test.

"It's too bad it happened," said Houston. "I hope it doesn't hurt the sport."

It won't. The twisted thing is it might even legitimize it in the minds of some. Now if they can catch somebody using steroids ...


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