The code of conduct violation that sparked St. Thomas University’s men’s rugby club’s one game suspension happened at the home of team captain, Alex Labelle.
Labelle shares the house with three senior teammates. The club team’s senior players have been accused of providing alcohol to underage rookies at the house party and instigating drinking games.
“The senior players had purchased the booze and unfortunately we created an environment where not only underage players were allowed to drink, but where they may have felt pressured to drink,” Labelle said in an email.
STU’s athletic code of conduct states:
“Varsity and club athletes are expected to avoid the illegal use of “recreational” drugs (e.g. marijuana, cocaine, hashish) as well as the illegal and/or excessive consumption of alcohol. Varsity and club athletes are expected to refrain from providing recreational substances, including alcohol, to anyone who has not attained the age of majority.”
Every athlete is required to sign the athletic code of conduct at the start of the school year.
STU’s men’s volleyball team was suspended for the remainder of their 2010-2011 season after Andrew Bartlett, a rookie on the team, died after an accidental fall in his apartment building after a night of heavy drinking at a rookie party. STU administration determined that hazing happened at the party because rookies and veterans were treated differently.
Aaron Smith was on the volleyball team in 2010, and is now a member of the men’s rugby team. He says the suspension “sucks.”
“I never thought it would happen [to me] twice, but I’m glad my [rugby] teammates are all well,” Smith said.
Athletic director Mike Eagles found out about the party through a female co-worker. He says there are at least three underage players on the team, but it’s unclear how many were there. There were approximately 25 people at the party, at least half of which are on the rugby team.
“One of the points in the code of conduct is that we don’t expect our of-age athletes will provide alcohol to athletes that are under the age of majority. We felt like that in this situation, that point was broken,” Eagles said.
The suspension means the team forfeited its game at UPEI last weekend. The team’s schedule only consists of six regular season games.
The remaining two games of their schedule, on Oct. 13 and 19, depend on the team passing a remedial session where they will make a presentation to Eagles and Lily Fraser, vice president of finance and administration, on lessons they’ve learned.
Director of communications, Jeffrey Carleton, said there was no doubt the team would be sanctioned.
“It was just a matter of what would be the length of it,” he said.
Although drinking games were present at the party last weekend, Eagles dismisses the notion that there was hazing involved. Despite that, Eagles says that it can be perceived that pressure to drink could have been a factor.
“Someone without a real high, high level of self-confidence might feel like they should participate in this even when they don’t want to,” he said.
Players from the team are disappointed in the suspension but understand the consequences of their actions.
Brandon Courtney, a second year centre, said that the punishment is “just” but is “glad they didn’t take away our season.”
Jack Bohanek, who has played on the team for four years, agreed with Courtney that the suspension was justified.
“It’s pretty unfortunate because all of the guys were looking forward to playing at UPEI, especially as I’m from PEI, but everyone totally understands the suspension.”
Head coach Dan Cyr declined to comment. When asked if he could take a few minutes to talk to The Aquinian, he said, “No, I can’t.”
No one was injured at the party and police were not involved.
With files from Liam McGuire
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