The Oregon School Activities Association suspended 11 Hillsboro (Ore.) Glencoe High wrestlers for doctoring their annual required urine tests, according to the Oregonian.
The grapplers have reportedly been outlawed from returning to the program until Jan. 20, which would mean missing roughly three quarters of the team's 44 matches.
But Glencoe athletic director Scott Ellis called the penalty “a little too much," considering the wrestlers admitted the wrongdoing to their coach and Ellis reported the violation to the OSAA himself, according to the Oregonian report.
Prior to the wrestling season, the OSAA requires urine samples to ensure athletes are properly hydrated before a process to determine the range of weight classes at which a wrestler can safely compete throughout the course of the season.
The National Federation of High School Athletic Associations adopted the guidelines in order to curb the unhealthy and even deadly practice of drastically shedding weight prior to meets -- a technique that received national attention when Sports Illustrated called the NCAA to task in 1997 upon the deaths of three collegiate wrestlers in a span of 33 days.
However, the Glencoe wrestlers -- six members of the varsity and five on the junior varsity -- added water to their urine just prior to the testing, and the doctored samples actually passed a certified assessor's tests, according to the original Oregonian report.
Glencoe wrestling coach Jason Harless reportedly noticed his grapplers taking longer than usual to submit their samples and confronted them. Six members originally came forward, and another five did so after an athletes-only meeting, the report said.
Once Ellis self-reported the violation, the OSAA then had to weigh the original sin against the fact that these student-athletes came forward when all they had to do was stick to their story. Still, the governing body came down with a harsh penalty.
“It was a matter of integrity," Harless told the Oregonian. "As a coach, as a member of Glencoe High School, I can’t represent myself knowing that there was a possibility team members cheated. No win is worth that cost. It was a decision that I made that this needs to be dealt with. This was a moment that I felt was bigger than the sport – winning and losing. It was a moment that needed to be a teaching moment for those kids, where they had to learn the difference between right and wrong.”
At the very least, this story has unveiled a loophole in the system that should be addressed and may one day save a wrestler's life. And the Glencoe wrestlers remain eligible to qualify for the state championship meet at the end of February.
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