ATHENS – As Georgia prepares to begin preseason football practices Thursday, Georgia offensive lineman Kolton Houston remains ineligible to compete for the Bulldogs, the school confirmed Thursday.
Houston, a redshirt sophomore offensive tackle from Buford, was ineligible last season due to what Georgia would say is only was “an NCAA issue.” But according to 10 pages of documents and letters released to the AJC on Thursday, Houston has been actively appealing a positive NCAA test for a banned substance since April of 2010. At that time, Houston was informed he had tested positive for “19-norandrosterone” — an anabolic steroid — in a random drug screening.
According to appeals documents filed with the NCAA and president Mark Emmert, Houston has continued to test positive since then, though the school and family contend there has been no re-use of the substance and the levels have declined to the point of being disadvantageous. Houston reportedly was administered the steroid after surgery for a high school shoulder injury.
According to UGA, Houston will be able to continue to practice but will be unable to play until he’s able to produce a clean test.
Georgia coach Mark Richt, who has been asked about Houston’s availability repeatedly since last fall, finally addressed the situation openly Thursday at the team’s preseason news conference.
“It’s been a difficult situation for Kolton and his family and us as coaches, continuing to assume it’s gonna get out of there but it just hasn’t. You’ve been asking me questions for a while and I’ve been saying, ‘Hopefully we’ll be ready to go.’ Well, he’s still not ready to go. It could happen any time really.”
Houston is listed as the No. 1 right tackle heading into preseason camp. Initially Richt said sophomore Watts Dantzler will step into the starting position with true freshman John Theus competing for playing time.
The Houston family approved the release of the documents, which otherwise would be protected by federal privacy laws. Family lawyers and Georgia have continued to appeal the case.
The latest appeal came on July 12 when athletic director Greg McGarity sent a personal letter to NCAA President Mark Emmert:
“Mr. Houston, his parents and our staff acknowledge the fact that the results of that test severely impacted his ability to compete as a student-athlete at UGA, and the Houston family accepted the responsibility for this unfortunate situation. Since the initial test confirmation on April 13, 2010, Mr. Houston has been tested very frequently by the NCAA and UGA, and there is scientific evidence that clearly demonstrates that there has been no re-use over the past 2 1/2 years. While we have fought for Mr. Houston’s restoration of eligibility through every imaginable NCAA process available without any success, we will maintain our effort to see this through to the very end. It is disappointing to witness this scenario play out for 2 1/2 years with Mr. Houston’s eligibility in question. . . . We are appealing to you on behalf of the young man who has done everything possible to clear himself.”
Georgia did not get the reply it sought from Emmert. In a July 31 letter, he wrote:
“While I understand the institution’s empathy for Kolton’s situation, I am surprised the institution would make such a request. That surprise stems in part from the fact that Kolton tested positive in subsequent drug tests after his initial sanction, and the Drug Test Appeals Subcommittee did not impose additional sanctions . . . due to the “declining value” argument that supported the conclusion that there was no use of the banned substance. The exit test policy, however, which would require Kolton not to have elevated levels of the banned substance in his system prior to competing against other student-athletes who are competing clean, is not something that can be appealed because doing so would undermine the purpose of the drug-testing program. . . . The fact remains that Kolton currently has the presence of a banned substance in his system and will not be able to participate in NCAA competition until that presence drops to an appropriate threshold.”
Here’s Georgia’s official statement on the subject:
“Prior to his enrollment at the University of Georgia, Kolton Houston sustained a shoulder injury while participating in high school football. During the recovery process he was unknowingly given a substance which was banned by the NCAA. During normal NCAA randomized drug testing for student-athletes, Kolton was tested during the first semester and tested positive for Norandrolone, a performance enhancing substance. Per NCAA guidelines he was banned from competition for one year and lost one of his four years of athletic eligibility. The University of Georgia Athletic Association has worked closely with the NCAA, the National Center for Drug Free Sport, Kolton and his family to restore his eligibility. Although he remains ineligible for competition at this time, he is eligible to practice and train with the team and remains on scholarship. His family has requested that the Athletic Association release information related to his NCAA status. Per their request, five letters related to his appeal along with supporting documentation are being released.”
Here’s a statement from Ron Courson, UGA’s director of sports medicine:
“This is an extremely unique and complex case. The banned substance use occurred prior to his enrollment at the University of Georgia. During the past 2 1/2 years while at Georgia following the positive NCAA test, our testing clearly demonstrates Kolton has had no further re-use. We feel strongly he’s deserving of the three remaining years of eligibility and (will) continue to work toward restoration.”
Here’s Richt’s comments on the situation made at the preseason practice news conference Thursday:
“Kolton obviously hasn’t been playing. He’s had an eligibility issue. Kolton’s family asked if we would make some things available. There’s a packet of things that you’ll all receive. It’s fairly technical stuff. … Ron Courson will be available later today. … We were going to wait until tomorrow but we figured we would just have it today so when you [write] your stories you’ll have all the information…
“Basically prior to Kolton coming to Georgia he had a shoulder surgery and unknowingly was given a substance that’s banned by the NCAA. So he ended up testing positive for that substance. It wasn’t like a recreational drug or anything like that. . . .
“The NCAA has a protocol that if you test positive for that kind of thing, you miss a year of competition. So his first year he missed a year of competition. Over time you assume this substance will leave your body and you get to the point where the NCAA says you can go back and play. We’ll, we’ve been waiting for that moment and it hasn’t come. It’s been 2 ½ years and this thing, for whatever reason, has not gotten out of it. Ron will be able to tell you the story behind it. But he’s been tested probably more time than anybody in the history of college football. We’re 100 percent certain that he hasn’t continued to take this thing. It’s just never gotten far enough out of the system for him to be declared eligible to play. That’s about as much as I can explain in layman’s terms. Ron will be able to explain. The file’s a whole lot thicker than this but whatever Ron gives you all will hopefully help you understand better. …
“What does that do for us as a football team? We have to prepare as if he won’t be able to play. … We’ll have Watts Dantzler there, and Theus backing him up at the right tackle position.”