Wed Jun 08 04:58am EDT
A quirk of geography may have proven disastrous for Hamilton Tiger-Cats' long-snapper and linebacker Jordan Matechuk—and it could have implications for the CFL as a whole as well. Matechuk was apparently heading to Hamilton from Alberta for training camp May 31 when he was arrested for possession of anabolic steroids at the International Bridge border crossing between Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. News of his arrest came out Tuesday thanks to a news release from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which tends to spotlight unusual cases. A professional football player caught with "543 anabolic steroid pills, 262 millilitres of anabolic steroids in liquid form, 1.25 grams of marijuana, 19 syringes, and 51 replacement needles" certainly qualifies there.
This incident may have the potential to scar the CFL in much more significant and long-lasting ways than the last infamous drug arrest, that of former B.C. Lions' running back/kick returner Yonus Davis (appropriately enough, the man Matechuk is pictured trying to tackle above in a Sept. 6, 2010 game) earlier this year. Davis was reportedly caught attempting to receive a FedEx package containing 67 pounds of ecstasy in the U.S. with another former Lion, receiver Robert Jordan. The Davis case (and others like that of former Eskimos' defensive lineman Adam Braidwood) could have hurt the CFL's reputation, but the team released him fairly quickly, and his case is mostly remembered as a punchline at the moment. The Matechuk situation, while probably less serious for him from a legal perspective (charges of possession of anabolic steroids without a prescription are nowhere close to as significant as charges of possession with intent to distribute of ecstasy), could hurt the league's image much more.
If Matechuk was in fact on his way to training camp with those kinds of amounts of steroids and needles, that brings to mind some very unpleasant possibilities. Keep in mind that this is the first year we're going to see drug testing in the CFL ranks; it's already been in place in the university ranks for a while (leading to some significant cases), but never took place in the pros until last year's CBA brought it in (starting in 2011). Many have argued that there wasn't much need for significant drug testing in the CFL, and to this point, there hasn't been much to prove them wrong. There still isn't much conclusive proof of a wide-ranging problem, as Matechuk could be acting all on his own here rather than trying to supply teammates, but the optics certainly aren't good for the league.
It may be worth the Tiger-Cats' while to be proactive here and release Matechuk as quickly as possible. He's been a solid-enough contributor to their roster as a long-snapper and special-teams guy to stick around since signing in 2008 out of the Victoria Rebels junior program, and suited up for all 18 games last year. He was also mentioned as the projected starting long-snapper as late as Monday, but it's not like he's impossible to replace. There are plenty of Canadian linebackers from the CIS and CJFL out there looking for work, and some of them undoubtedly can pick up long snapping. There are also plenty of guys who have bona fide long-snapping experience, including one guy they just signed earlier this week, Kevin Scott. Furthermore, Hamilton just cut a player for tweeting sensitive information; this seems a good deal more serious than that.
Moreover, Hamilton's had more than enough time to do due diligence on this. If Matechuk's arrest happened on May 31, it seems very likely they found out about it shortly thereafter (probably while investigating why he wasn't at camp on time). There are a lot of prominent people who love crusading against the spectre of performance-enhancing drugs, something we've seen before in the university football ranks. That's not something the CFL or the Tiger-Cats want to be associated with, so the team should likely get rid of Matechuk as soon as possible and do their best to find out if this went any deeper.
Update: The Ticats acted quickly and released Matechuk Wednesday morning. Head coach Marcel Bellefeulle issued a statetment saying the Ticats "vehemently oppose the use of performance enhancing drugs."
The one particularly humourous note from this comes from the way Matechuk (pictured at right) was caught. Many would ask why he was trying to cross the border to travel from Alberta to Ontario, and the answer's thanks to peculiarities of Canadian geography. It's a similar distance to travel to Hamilton from Sault Ste. Marie through Canada or the U.S. (Yahoo! Maps pegs both around 490 miles), but the trip through the U.S. is often much quicker (Y! Maps estimates it cuts the trip by over two hours). Matechuk was probably trying to save himself some time, which is a laudable goal normally, but probably less so when hauling massive amounts of steroids. Now, instead of saving time, he might just end up doing some.