Matt Socholotiuk told his University of Waterloo football coaches the truth, then he told them what would happen. Yes, he had used performance-enhancing drugs. Yes, he had used human growth hormone. But the HGH wasn't going to be an issue.
It was cycled out of his system, Socholotiuk said.
That was last spring. On Wednesday, the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports announced the Warriors' 5-foot-9, 247-pound running back from Waterford, Ont., had badly miscalculated by becoming the first athlete in North America to test positive for HGH, a new twist in an ongoing drug saga.
Having previously announced there were nine adverse results from the 62 drug tests done on the Waterloo football team in late March, the CCES added to that information by identifying four of the guilty parties, including Socholotiuk, who was slapped with a three-year ban for having high levels of testosterone in both his urine and blood samples.
According to Paul Melia, the president and CEO of the CCES, Socholotiuk was informed of his positive test, chose to appeal it, then failed to show for his hearing Aug. 16.
"We have suspected that HGH has been abused by certain athletes in an effort to cheat," Melia said. "We now have the proof."
While CCES had its suspicions confirmed, it was still surprised by what it saw at Waterloo. The national drug-testing agency described the situation as a "high level of [drug use]sophistication," which included micro-dosing and the knowledge of how much time it would take for a substance to become undetectable.
"This is the same situation with blood doping and EPO," said Dr. Christiane Ayotte, director of the Montreal detection lab. "The athletes are using smaller dosages. … This is a breakthrough. This is the first positive in North America. This result shows the value of this test."
The CCES was called in by Canadian Interuniversity Sport officials after a Waterloo football player, Nathan Zettler, was arrested and charged with possession of anabolic steroids for the purpose of trafficking. Police also discovered HGH.
The Waterloo athletic department ordered its entire 62-man team be tested after the Zettler arrest, and when nine results were deemed adverse, the university shut down its football program for the 2010 CIS season.
Melia used Wednesday's announcement to say more testing and education are required, especially at the high school level. He also encouraged the professional sports leagues to adopt the World Anti-Doping Agency guidelines and begin testing for HGH.
"The professional leagues have an important opportunity now to send a clear message to young athletes about where they stand on all forms of doping, including HGH," Melia said. "The NFL and MLB players' unions in particular can no longer hide behind the excuse that there is not a reliable test for HGH. … They need to stop sending a mixed message to our children and youth that it is okay to cheat and risk your health to set records and pursue winning at any cost."
The Canadian Football League's new drug-testing policy, which takes effect next season, will test athletes for HGH. The CFL will absorb the cost of the tests, roughly $800.
Athletes in a variety of sports are believed to have used HGH for several decades. Urinalysis cannot detect the muscle-enhancing drug, while blood testing has not been universally accepted. Long-term side effects from HGH have been commonly reported as muscle, bone and joint pain, and diabetes.
The other players identified and sanctioned by the CCES were offensive lineman Spencer Zimmerman-Cryer from London, Ont., receiver Aubrey Jesseau from Thunder Bay and linebacker Brandon Krukowski from Kitchener, Ont. Zimmerman-Cryer received a one-year ban for taking Oral-Turinabol, a WADA banned substance. Jesseau drew a two-year ban for taking Stanozolol.
Krukowski received the stiffest penalty of the bunch, a four-year ban. He refused to take a drug test when ordered by Waterloo administrators. The CCES considers a refusal a positive result. Krukowski has also been charged by police with possession of steroids for the purpose of trafficking. All charges against Krukowski were later withdrawn in Kitchener Provincial Court.
In earlier findings, Waterloo players Jordan Meredith, Matt Peto, Joe Surgenor and Eric Polini were punished for adverse test results. Zettler is believed to have tested positive or admitted to using steroids as well.
"What's illegal is illegal," said former Waterloo football coach Carl Zender. "Whatever the line is, you cross over it, it's wrong. But when you're getting onto HGH, you're getting into a sophisticated area trying to cover up something."
Waterloo recently investigated what led to the football team's drug scandal and exonerated the coaches and athletes, except for the nine who were caught.
Editor's note: This story was updated to reflect that all charges against Brandon Krukowski were withdrawn in Kitchener Provincial Court.