Georgia’s Kolton Houston could very well be one of the premier linemen in the country. He could also be completely and utterly average. We just don’t know. The redshirt sophomore currently finds himself in NCAA limbo following a failed drug test from April 2010.
Houston has never played a down in college. He arrived in Athens early as a freshman following shoulder surgery and tested positive for the anabolic steroid Norandrolone. This failed test for PEDs brought on a one-year suspension, which he served in year one.
The following February, Houston failed a drug test once again for the same exact substance and was immediately ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA. The school appealed this ruling providing copious results from self-administrated drug tests that demonstrated the amounts in Houston’s system had been gradually decreasing (or at least they plateaued.)
With detailed testing provided, the NCAA ruled in favor of Georgia and removed “permanent” from Houston’s ineligibility. The problem, however, was that the drug was still present so they replaced the terminology with “indefinite” instead. Because he still had traces of the steroid, he was not allowed to see the field per the NCAA’s drug policy.
Another year later and Houston is once again ineligible as remnants of the drug remain. His test results have continued to decrease—albeit very slowly—but the NCAA hasn’t budged. Georgia has recently expressed their frustration with the ruling both publicly and directly, as reported by David Ching of ESPN.com.
"He's been tested probably more times than anybody in the history of college football, said Georgia coach Mark Richt. “We're 100 percent certain he has not continued to take this thing, but it's just never gotten far enough out of his system for him to be declared eligible to play."
Amid protest, NCAA head honcho Mark Emmert has reached out to Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity saying he was “surprised” that they would contest this ruling, Ching reported.
"The fact remains that Kolton currently has the presence of a banned substance in his system and he will not be able to participate in NCAA competition until that presence drops to an appropriate threshold," Emmert wrote.
He concluded that allowing him to play would “undermine the purpose of the drug-testing program.”
And so a collegiate athlete who tested positive for a banned substance and has scientific proof that he has not taken this substance since, will likely be unable to play for at least the foreseeable future, despite being punished for it long ago. This is a unique situation that calls for a unique response, not a formulated bit of type that has been regurgitated before.
Georgia will continue to administer drug tests hoping that he will eventually dip under the required threshold to play, although nothing is guaranteed. From a team standpoint, this loss is big. By all accounts, Houston was anticipated to be more than just a serviceable tackle on the right side. The overall message and injustice, however, looms larger.
You feel for this young man. He’s paid the price and more for a mistake that happened more than two years (and two seasons ago), his body just hasn’t cooperated. Everyone, including the NCAA president, is very aware that Kolton has not taken a PED since his freshman year. They acknowledged such by ruling in Georgia’s favor on the appeal.
Forget rulings and appeals for a moment, however. In the court of “Is this right or wrong?” the answer is quite simple. Consider that and the countless drug tests that have followed, and it’s clear that something isn’t right here. Still, Kolton will have to wait until his “percentages” match up, and it’s in anatomy’s hands now. It shouldn’t have to be.
Mark Emmert is choosing to go by the book, although his response to Georgia is infuriating. To view this as any other positive drug test is ridiculous, and trying to throw a giant tent over all drug-related circumstances is, without question, flawed. This is not just the case with positive drug tests, but instead an issue with college football’s punishment system in general. It’s why the book is currently being rewritten, although good luck anticipating cases such as this.
And on the topic of “by the book,” we’ve seen that this term no longer bares the same resemblance that it once did.
Emmert chose to expedite the Penn State sanctions when given power, used a report that was not conducted by the NCAA to determine punishments, and presented an “unprecedented” ruling on an unprecedented situation in record time.
In no shape or form can you possibly compare a positive steroid test and a university scandal of that magnitude, but you can assess the response. Emmert’s ability to pick and choose when he rolls up his sleeves and breaks away from protocol is why many believe he might have opened up Pandora’s Box.
We have no idea what kind of situations lie ahead, but we do know that not every situation warrants a description and reading of NCAA bylaws. Some are unique and require something more. Mark Emmert has made that very clear.
Kolton Houston will continue to sit on the sidelines, serving a punishment that should have been lifted long ago. He will be drug tested regularly in hopes that the results will come back somehow different than they have the past few years. His body will continue to metabolize the drug, trying to release it from his system. This, if and when it happens, will be his only release.
It defies common sense, but then again, he’s just a small, forgettable cog in an unstoppable machine.