It’s hard to believe in the heat of summer, but in just a few weeks, college football players all across the country – especially in the South, where college football is an all-consuming phenomenon – will take to the field for a new season. For one student athlete at the University of Georgia, the dream of playing “between the hedges” at Sanford Stadium remains just out of his grasp.
Kolton Houston has wanted to play football at the University of Georgia since he was a little boy. His father, Shane Houston played for the Bulldogs but saw his career cut short by an injury. Kolton wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, and in a just world, he would be a starting offensive lineman. However, he cannot play due to NCAA regulations and at one point even faced a lifetime ban from the sport.
Shortly after his arrival in Athens in April 2010, Houston tested positive for an anabolic steroid called norandrolone. The NCAA considers a result greater than 2.5 nanograms per milliliter to be proof of use; Houston had 260 nanograms per milliliter. The math was simple, and he was suspended for a year. Violation, sentence, case closed. Ron Courson, Georgia’s senior associate athletic director, gave Houston the news. “We were very surprised, very shocked,” Courson recently told ESPN’s Outside the Lines.
What wasn’t surprising was Houston’s response. He did what so many caught athletes do, blaming some mysterious tainted supplement, some shake or powder with too much boost. The difference was that Courson, the school’s director of sports medicine since 1995, believed him. He began testing Houston, test after test — “He’s been tested probably more times than anybody in the history of college football,” Georgia coach Mark Richt says — and over time Houston carried less norandrolone but still too much. His body wasn’t a destination for the drug; it was somehow a source.