The best gift Georgia offensive lineman Kolton Houston got for his 22nd birthday came from the NCAA: His eligibility.
Houston was suspended in April 2010 for testing positive for an anabolic steroid called norandrolone. The NCAA limit is 2.5 nanograms per milliliter of blood and the lifelong Georgia fan - his dad played linebacker for the Bulldogs - had 260 nanograms. He was suspended for the entire season.
Only Houston wasn't using. As a high school junior, he'd undergone shoulder surgery and was given a series of injections. Those injections contained the banned substance, and due to poor aim from the doctor administering them, there were still deposits lodged in his body.
Houston found an ally in Ron Courson, Georgia's director of sports medicine, and together they began intensive testing and treatments to try to get the levels down, including surgeries to remove the deposits. Having testing positive for a banned substance a second time, Houston was facing a lifetime ban from the NCAA, but after meeting the screening threshold on his most recent test, he's finally eligible take the field with the Dawgs.
"When I got the call, I broke down and cried for about 30 minutes," said Houston. "I had that much emotion stored up and it felt good to get it out. I’m ready now to show what I can do.”
“The big thing is that we're just really happy for Kolton,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said in a release. “We're thankful for all the work Ron Courson put in and for those who kept believing, but mostly we're happy for him. We don't want to put any pressure on him like now he's got to be a star. The bottom line is, we're happy he'll be able to participate for Georgia. We're glad it all worked out.”
“This has been a long and very complex case and we have tried to be advocates for Kolton throughout this three-year process,” said Courson in the same release. “We would like to thank the NCAA staff, as well as the members of the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports, who assisted with this case. There are a number of medical professionals who played key roles in this appeal, from physicians to pharmacists to biomedical researchers to drug toxicologists. This was truly a team effort.”
A few tweets celebrating the NCAA's decision:
It took me 22 years to get the best birthday present but the NCAA finally gave me my eligibility! #HoustonIsFree
— Kolton Houston (@KoltonHouston75) July 25, 2013
It's an AWESOME DAY FOR KOLTON HOUSTON AND FOR GEORGIA!! Now he can play the game he loves with the teammates he loves!! Go Dawgs!!
— Mark Richt (@MarkRicht) July 25, 2013
Houston will have two years of eligibility remaining, but he can apply to the NCAA for an additional year if he chooses. It would be nice after dragging their feet this long to reinstate Houston if the NCAA could just give him the third year without a hassle, but hey, then they wouldn't be the NCAA.
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