Hockey star bites the dust

In the immortal words of Rick James, “Cocaine is a hell of a drug.”

Just ask Jarret Lukin, formerly of the University of Calgary’s men’s hockey program. Lukin’s been suspended from the collegiate game for two years after testing positive for Columbian marching powder. The suspension, announced Fri., Feb. 9 by Canadian Interuniversity Sport, stems from a positive test result from a sample taken in November. Lukin had since left the Dinos for the greener pastures of the East Coast Hockey League’s Florida Everblades, a second-tier minor-league team. Following the news in Canada, Lukin was also suspended from the ECHL, pending an investigation.

Losing two gigs in one day because of a little snort can’t be easy. For his part, Lukin handled the news well.

“It was a mistake off the ice,” explained the former Western Hockey Leaguer to the Canadian Press. “I’m just looking to move on and put it behind me.”

But what’s he moving on from? What’s his crime?

Cocaine is not considered a performance-enhancing drug, as no discernable advantage is gained from taking it. If anything, coke makes it harder to play hockey, and yet it appears alongside steroids and growth hormones as substances that provide an unfair advantage to competitors.

Recreational drugs are banned for one reason: optics. Schools send players like Lukin out as ambassadors. They have the logo on their chests and their actions on and off the ice or field determine a school’s reputation throughout the country. Few contribute as much to their school’s image as collegiate athletes and few are as scrutinized and regulated. As a community, we want our Dinos to stomp across the sports landscape, dominate the competition and then celebrate with a frosty mug of root beer and a veggie platter before getting back on the bus for several hours of uninterrupted study.

But in the real world, these are real people, likely pulling the same sophomoric crap as the rest of the undergraduates here. Sometimes that crap includes drugs and sometimes those drugs are cocaine. Sometimes you get tested and sometimes you get caught. Then you get suspended for two years.

But that’s just athletes.

Our solar car team represents the university much the same way Lukin did. They haven’t faced drug tests.

The Students’ Union Executive never pees in a cup to keep their jobs.

Tenured professors represent the university, but they’ve never appeared before a tribunal for getting carried away at a party.

Lukin made a mistake, but the consequences are unfairly heightened simply because he’s an athlete. Any other student could show up to lectures with alcohol coursing through their veins and a joint stashed behind their ear and not garner more than gawking stares and perhaps misguided applause. Athletes just can’t do this.

A university environment is by-and-large a safe and supportive one, filled with like-minded people looking for a good time. It’s a great place to make mistakes, and cocaine is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. But while the rest of us can shrug it off, live and learn, hug a toilet and down the ibuprofen, Jarret Lukin and student athletes like him just can’t. One mistake has cost him everything–his livelihood and his passion.

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