NCAA: Houston Now Eligible

Kolton Houston's long wait to play college football is nearly over.

Houston will be eligible to play football this fall for Georgia for the first time in his career, according to a release from Georgia. Houston has been enrolled at Georgia since January 2010, but has never played in a contest because of the "presence of a banned substance in his system", according to a July 31, 2012 letter from NCAA president Mark Emmert. That substance has been in Houston's body for at least three years – a time in which the NCAA was adamant that Houston would not play.

But the NCAA reversed its position on Houston's situation after months of public outcry. In fact according to sources, the NCAA contacted University officials in early June asking Georgia to send a request for Houston's reinstatement, which has been granted.

Houston is expected to make an immediate impact on the offensive line at Georgia – playing both tackle and guard. The news is a welcome change for Houston and his family, who, along with Georgia, have gone through extreme measures to fight for Kolton's ability to play college football – and have paid for all of the medical expenses along the way.

Emmert's letter was in response to Georgia AD Greg McGarity's letter earlier that month requesting that Houston's eligibility be restored. McGarity went on to say that it was "disappointing to witness this scenario play out for 2½ years with Mr. Houston's eligibility in question."

But Emmert and the NCAA wouldn't budge, and seemed confused as to Georgia's protest of the situation. "I am surprised that (Georgia) would make such a request (for Houston's reinstatement)," Emmert wrote.

At that point, with seemingly nowhere to go, Georgia officials released a 19-page document to the media detailing the drug testing Houston had and was undergoing in the hopes of playing one day. Georgia officials argued that Houston was a victim of the NCAA's "flawed" drug testing, and that he should have been able to play right away – stating that there is scientific evidence that Houston has not re-used performance-enhancing drugs in two-and-a-half years. In other words Georgia had scientific evidence that Houston had not used anything illegal since the time he enrolled at Georgia in January of 2010.

The packet released to the media stated that Houston had tested positive for Norandrolone – a banned substance by the NCAA. At the time Houston failed the test, his norandrolone level was at an unnatural 260 ng/ml. Nine and a half months later Houston's levels had dropped drastically to 26 ng/ml – down more than 100 times the levels from a year before, but still over the limit set by the NCAA.

Houston was ruled ineligible for one year – a year in which he redshirted. All the while, Georgia continued to test the Buford native. In testing Houston never dropped below the NCAA-required 2.5 ng/ml level for eligibility.

But correspondence with the NCAA shows that Georgia felt Houston's was "an extremely unique and complex case." Georgia officials stated that "the testing clearly demonstrates that there had been no re-use over the 26 months (Houston had been enrolled at Georgia)." The school requested that the NCAA reinstate Houston. "We feel strongly that he is deserving of the three remaining years of athletic eligibility and again respectfully request restoration of eligibility."

That did not happen.

Ron Courson, who was named to the Athletic Trainers' Hall Of Fame in May 2013, expressed "serious concern", saying: "There are inherent flaws in the current NCAA Drug Testing Program which had been raised many times before by sports medicine professionals, but never addressed adequately by the NCAA. One of the hallmarks of drug testing is serial, or repeat, testing in order to track the levels on an individual and document a downward trend. The NCAA does not do this. The testing clearly demonstrates that there has been no re-use over the past two-and-a-half years."

Courson went on to write that Georgia had been told "quite bluntly that (Houston's) appeal process was over." Still, Courson pressed on, recommending that the NCAA drug test Houston "as frequently as it would like, at our institutional expense."

The NCAA said no, and Houston missed another fall in Silver Britches.

"It's been a very difficult situation for Kolton and his family and for us as coaches," Georgia coach Mark Richt said last August after the NCAA said no once more. "You continue to assume it's eventually going to get out of there, but it just hasn't."

Houston was then spotlighted during a segment of Outside the Lines. The cable program reported that Houston had started taken extreme measures such as pursuing family-paid elective surgery in hopes of removing areas of the body that had higher levels of norandrolone and staying in a sauna hoping to sweat out some of the norandrolone. But testing after both still showed levels of norandrolone still not permitted by the NCAA standard.

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