Positive tests scratching surface

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:36 PM ET

TORONTO -- Nabbing Matt Socholotiuk, a Waterloo Warriors rookie running back, for using Human Growth Hormone is a landmark moment for drug testing in sports.

There's only been five athletes world-wide caught and sanctioned for HGH use.

But Christiane Ayotte of the renowned Institute Armand-Frappier in Laval, Que., believes it's simply scratching the surface.

"By no means do I think that only Waterloo football players are taking drugs," she said Wednesday in Toronto, "but to have one of just 20 blood tests come back positive, and nine positives on one team, that's pretty high and it's shows you something is going on.

"There's a sub-culture forming there."

Ayotte is under no illusions her lab's HGH test, in use for the past two years, will act as a deterrent for future doping violators in sport.

"It's the best we have right now and we'll continue working on a better one," she said. "Will they (drug cheats) get around this? Yes, of course. But the main thing is we've been able to get test kits into the hands of the professional testers where money shouldn't be an issue ($1,200 for 12 blood tests).

"If you test your drinking water for $200, why wouldn't these sports (bodies) pay to ensure clean play?"

The key is still, she believes, the athlete's biological passport. Ayotte, a member of the IAAF track and field doping commission for the past 15 years, sees the World Anti-Doping Agency-approved method of tracking blood and body chemistry over time as the best answer over random and even target testing.

"HGH is like EPO where you have to test right away to catch someone," she said. "You look at the (Quebec) cyclist Genevieve Jeanson and she had been doping since she was 16 and, though she had some problems, our tests couldn't catch her."

In a team sport, where does the responsibility lie? The Waterloo scandal has cast a shadow over the entire Ontario university season.

"It has," Western Mustangs recruiting coordinator Mickey Donovan said. "It affected everyone and it's good it's coming out. Right now, the rest of us are in-season and we've kind of moved on but you need that kind of awareness."

Will Canadian university teams get to the point where they make incoming players submit to blood tests before suiting up?

"You look at Waterloo and the risks are extremely high (suspending the program for a year)," Donovan said. "As a recruiter, you want to have as much information as you can. You talk to their high school coaches, their parents and find out what kind of kid you have. Maybe you will take a guy off your list if you think he's taking drugs. It can be pretty easy to tell. If a guy came back 40 pounds heavier over one summer, you might want to sit them down and ask what's going on.

"You have to be careful because with some guys, it's natural, but a lot of times, it's not and I'd like to think we'd be able to talk about the choices they're making."

Donovan, a former CFLer, played college ball south of the border. He wishes the Canadian system would get tougher on drug testing.

"I know it's a money thing and there's a lack of resources but it needs to be done," he said. "In the NCAA, they would test 40 guys per team.

"It's not like that here."


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