Baxter busted for doping

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

CCES

Photo Illustration: Brice Hall

THERE'S LITTLE "SUBSTANCE' IN USING BANNED SUBSTANCE. Western football receiver Matt Baxter has been given a two-year ban from Canadian Interuniversity Sport for using banned substances, in this case a drug called Letrozole metabolite. The Mustangs football team was not given any sanctions.

In a statement issued last Thursday, Canadian Interuniversity Sport officials announced Western football receiver Matt Baxter has been suspended for two years for violating the organization’s doping regulations.

Baxter, who was completing his third year of CIS eligibility, tested positive for Letrozole metabolite, an organic compound used to break down letrozole. The test took place on Aug. 30 in an unannounced, out-of competition test conducted by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport.

Doping tests are randomly conducted on CIS athletes on an annual basis by officials from the CCES. The number of athletes tested each year is contingent on the organization’s budget.

“Using any substance on the banned list, whether it is perceived to be performance enhancing or not, is a big gamble and quite often it is a health risk,” CIS chief executive officer Marg McGregor said. “Out of respect for the game and consideration of fair play, athletes should avoid all banned substances to avoid getting sidelined.”

While Baxter has lost two years of eligibility, by CIS regulations, Western’s football team will not be sanctioned. McGregor said this rule was instated a few years ago to ensure athletes in the process of being tested were not penalized by their respective teams.

“In the past, if an athlete was being randomly selected to be tested and the result came back and the athlete tested positive, the team would be penalized and its entire season would be wiped out,” she said.

“As such, athletes that were tested were being sat out, even if they didn’t end up testing positive.”

In response to the incident, Western sports and recreation director Chuck Mathies issued a statement to the general public.

“Western is disappointed by this incident involving a member of our football team. While we are surprised by the findings on this senior student, we support the CIS doping control process,” he said.

Mathies also addressed the measures Western currently has in place to deal with doping issues.

“Western provides an educational session on anti-doping for all its CIS student-athletes in their first year, along with reminders and access to the CIS online program to keep students informed of the applicable regulations throughout their career.”

Michael Kerr, a chemistry professor at Western, explained the physiological effects of letrozole on the body.

“Letrozole will reduce estrogen levels significantly while raising testosterone levels,” he said.

Kerr further explained the testing conducted by the CIS detects the byproduct of breaking down the drug rather than the drug itself. In the case of letrozole, metabolites are used to modify the molecule so that it is easy to excrete, he said.

“You’ve got this foreign substance, letrozole, being acted on by various enzymes in the body, and the end product " which is going to be something that looks like the drug " now has products that the body can render water-soluble.”

Letrozole can be used by athletes during an off-cycle of steroid use, or to reduce bloating, which is a side effect of taking steroids, Kerr added. The suspension Baxter received, however, did not confirm any presence of steroids in his system.

If Baxter chooses to appeal the decision, the team must appeal the decision to the CCES. Thus far, no confirmation of an appeal has been made.

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