Gatesville suspension overturned within hours

By Wayne Craig
Burnet Bulletin

Some disturbing facts were brought to light Friday morning in a special called District 13-4A Executive Committee (DEC) meeting held in Lampasas to deal with allegations against students from one member high school.

In July, six current Gatesville High School football players admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs while taking part in summer workouts at the high school.

The drugs reportedly were administered through multiple injections and were supplied by a coach and parent at a cost of $100 to the players. An unnamed concerned citizen of Gatesville brought the allegations to light and the players admitted their part in taking the drugs, which are used to improve athletic performance.

Since that time, the coach has resigned his position and the parent involved is being prosecuted.

A timeline of the events shows that on July 17, the issue presented itself, but the students were not tested until Aug. 21, a full 33 days after they admitted their guilt.

At that time all six had negative test results.

Tiger Hanner, a lawyer representing five of the student athletes and their families, used that testing outcome to say the students never broke any state laws and they couldn’t be further punished by the DEC because they were never caught through a random test, and they didn’t fail the test they eventually offered to take.

Hanner said, “There is no violation of state law here. The kids did not possess or sell the drugs and all six tested clean.”

China Spring superintendent Dr. Marc Faulkner said, “There was never going to be a positive test since the test took 33 days to be done. The intent of what they did was to cheat.”

The six students in question only faced punishment under local policy. That punished was handed down during the summer and the athletes missed just 28 days of practice and the first scrimmage of the year against Glen Rose.

Both Hanner and Gatesville’s superintendent, Eric Penrod, tried to point the finger at Burnet as being the driving force behind the investigation. They claimed the timing of the meeting and investigation seemed suspicious since district play had begun and the Hornets had a perfect record in 13-4A.

Those allegations, however, didn’t fit a detailed timeline provided by Burnet Superintenden Keith McBurnett.

McBurnett didn’t learn of the situation until Sept. 14 in a casual conversation and later that same day through an email. It turned out that was only one day after a file associated with the case was turned over to the police department in Gatesville. The contents of that file still have not been released.

On Sept. 19, McBurnett sent an email to Dr. Mark Cousins, the University Interscholastic League’s director of compliance, asking what the district should do. He did not receive a response.

In a second email dated Sept. 27, McBurnett again addressed the question, at which time he was told to take it before the DEC.

District play for 13-4A didn’t begin until Oct. 13, and Burnet’s game against Gatesville didn’t take place until Oct. 20, nearly a full month after Cousins responded.

At the conclusion of Friday’s DEC meeting, a motion was made by Lampasas superintendent Chane Rascoe to suspend the six players involved for 30 days going forward from Oct. 27.

The motion passed in a 3-1 vote, with Lampasas, China Spring, and La Vega voting yes, while Liberty Hill voted no. Neither Burnet nor Gatesville was allowed to vote.

When asked if an appeal would be filed, Hanner said, “It has already been done.”

The appeal was held in Georgetown before the State Executive Committee (SEC) just hours after the DEC’s suspension was handed down. The SEC overruled the suspension, citing none of the players suspended had been charged with a crime, therefore no further punishment could be enforced and all six could play Friday night.

The decision to punish high school athletes for their use of PEDs is handed down by local policy only. Each individual school is responsible to set up guides and punishments for student athletes who are caught using PEDs. Only four of the six schools in District 13-4A randomly test for the use of PEDs.

“I want to make sure that I’m doing my job as a member of the DEC. I hope that we can all agree that these gray areas need to be fixed, so we don’t continue to have this problem in the future,” said McBurnett.

“We don’t like the policy we have in place now,” said Gatesville’s Penrod, “and we are going to change it, but we can’t move backwards, only forward from this point. In the world we live in, we must protect policy and live inside those bounds. If not, we are opening ourselves up to even bigger litigations.”

The Gatesville Hornets lost to China Spring Friday night, 43-16, which dropped their overall record to 7-1, and their district record to 2-1.

They are scheduled to play at La Vega this Friday, Nov. 3, and will host Liberty Hill for their final regular season game on Nov. 10.

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