Even as a two-year starter and second-team All-SEC pick last fall, Kentucky defensive end Jeremy Jarmon isn't exactly a household name, so the likely end of his football career over the weekend was just another forgettable headline. The senior-to-be's fatal offense?
An over-the-counter weight loss supplement to fulfill a New Year's resolution. Not exactly a scene out of Breaking Bad. I don't know if it's a good thing that the "banned substance" hammer is so rare -- virtually unprecedented over the last four to five years, to my recollection -- or if that rarity is another reason to be really infuriated on Jarmon's behalf.
I have been grateful that college football hasn't been hit with massive steroid scandals (yet) in the "New Media" era, so I don't have to go off every week about the hypocrisy and hysteria that defines the one-sided non-debate about "performance-enhancing drugs" in other sports. But Jarmon's case isn't even about steroids; unless his tearful statement Saturday was bald-faced lie, it seems impossible to argue that it even comes close.
Even if it did -- come close, that is, if the faux pas fell within the realm of an "unfair" or unhealthy competitive advantage under a flexible system that corresponded to the reality of specific cases -- does a season-long ban make sense? The standard penalty for a first-time positive drug or banned supplement test in the NFL is a four-game suspension, one-fourth of a season in what might be a decade-long career. Jarmon loses his entire senior year and, in all likelihood, whatever chance he had of being drafted next April. That only fits the "crime" if you're out to make a kid an example to prove how tough you are to a media culture that's repeatedly proven itself as a reactionary, ravenous critic on the subject. Better to cut short a career or two, I guess, than let "cheaters" back on the field after a couple games and risk a backlash that could affect ticket sales.
I don't know if matters at all that Jarmon is, by all accounts, a good kid with a degree and a clean record who made one bad assumption. But consider that, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader, a UK athlete who tested positive for marijuana last year was "simply penalized" as a first-time offender, not declared ineligible or booted from the team. Or that, within the same division, South Carolina cornerback C.C. Whitlock was just suspended from the team -- not declared ineligible or booted -- following a trespassing arrest on Saturday morning, less than a week after being reinstated from an academic suspension, which itself followed Whitlock's involvement in an on-campus brawl last September.
It might be a valid argument that marijuana and repeated run-ins with the law don't compromise the "competitive integrity" that's so crucial to any sport. But, (complexities and caveats of that ideal notwithstanding) I'm not sure how an over-the-counter weight loss supplement does, either. Not to this extent.