Fans start petition to help Georgia OL Kolton Houston fight NCAA

By Chris Huston | College Football Writer

NCAA president Mark Emmert refused Kolton Houston's request. (USATSI)
NCAA President Mark Emmert won't let Kolton Houston play for Georgia.(USATSI)

The ongoing quest by Georgia offensive lineman Kolton Houston to regain his NCAA eligibility picked up some steam this week when fans started an online petition to back his cause.

As of this writing, more than 3,000 signatures have been affixed to the petition in support of Houston posted by Jeremy Barton of Napa, Calif., at the social justice-oriented website Change.org.

Houston, now a junior, lost his eligibility as a freshman after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. It was later revealed that the anabolic steroids in his system were the result of an injection he received from a doctor as a junior in high school to help speed recovery from a shoulder injury. Residue from the injection remained in his fatty tissues, causing his steroid level to test slightly higher than the NCAA limit.

Georgia personally appealed to NCAA President Mark Emmert for Houston's eligibility to be restored, but the request was denied.

Houston recently appeared on ESPN's Outside the Lines and revealed he has undergone three radical medical treatments to remove the fatty tissues containing the steroids. His steroid level has been reduced and is now just 4 nanograms per millileter, an amount that Georgia contends provides him with no competitive advantage. It is also barely above the 2.5 ng/ml required by the NCAA. His frustration with the NCAA was palpable as he discussed his decision to undergo the risky procedures.

"I was hesitant about it," Houston told ESPN. "The NCAA, they sit there and proclaim that they're here for the sake of the athletes, and this is the third step that's completely unsafe for the athlete."

The petition in support of Houston is unlikely to make the NCAA change its mind, but it could help highlight how the organization's strict adherence to the letter of the law is hurting the very athletes it purports to help.

Titled "Mark Emmert and the NCAA: Allow Kolton Houston to pursue his collegiate dream to compete athletically," the petition reads:

The NCAA claims in their mission statement that "Our mission is to be an integral part of higher education and to focus on the development of our student-athletes."

However, it is sometimes the case that the NCAA fails to focus on the student athlete, but rather focuses on the maintenance of a highly bureaucratic set of rules that makes the Postal Service look streamlined. In those times, its implementation of the rules can make Joseph McCarthy look like the great compromiser.

The case of Kolton Houston demonstrates this rigid approach towards governing (not fostering) our student athletes. Houston, improperly injected by a doctor during recovery from a shoulder injury in high school, has been tested for illegal substances upwards of 80+ times over the course of 3 years since enrolling at UGA. The substance in question has decreased by 98.5% since first being tested. The levels are now marginally over the deemed NCAA limit, but despite the UGA Medical team's appeals to the NCAA, he is denied the opportunity to join his teammates on the field.

The NCAA should review its approach towards the enforcement of their rulebook, and reinstate Houston for the upcoming season. The kid has gone above and beyond the necessary to prove, statistically, that he is not using banned substances. Reinstate Kolton's eligibility!!!

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