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The St. Thomas University men’s rugby team has been given a one game suspension due to underage drinking that took part at a party one week ago.
The ban will see them forfeit their game this weekend away at UPEI and they could forfeit further games based on a remedial session.
Athletics Director Mike Eagles says the athletic code of conduct being breached was the source of the ban.
“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.”
Director of Communications Jeffrey Carlton says that the ban is based solely on the activities which took place at the party.
“Because of the events at the party, we felt that a sanction from the university under the athletics code of conduct was warranted,” he said. “It’s a significant punishment for a rugby team to lose a game when you have only six regular season games.”
Carlton adds that “there was no question there was going to be a sanction. It was just a matter of what would be the length of it.”
Eagles says that each student-athlete signs a code of conduct before the season begins and are expected to follow its rules. In the code of conduct, one major topic is that of alcohol and its use.
“We feel strongly enough about it to have it in our code of conduct,” he says.
At least three underage players are on the team according to Eagles and he estimates that more than 50 percent of the people at the party were from the men’s rugby team, where players of age bought substantial amounts of alcohol that were available to anyone at the party.
Although drinking games were present at the party, 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.
“People might feel perceived pressure whether they want to or not,” he says. “Someone without a real high level of self-confidence might feel like they should participate in this even when they don’t want to.”
According to Eagles that’s the kind of pressure he doesn’t want to be seen put on the university’s student athletes.
Eagles stresses that players are expected to “know, understand, and sign the code of conduct. He says that he doesn’t want the students in situations where negative consequences could happen.
St. Thomas caught wind of the situation on Wednesday where they held preliminary discussions about the situation. Eagles spoke with other members of the university hierarchy about an appropriate suspension and then informed the team. The process took 48 hours.
The police were not involved however with Eagles saying that “Fredericton’s a small community. STU’s a smaller community so at the end of the day you’re just going to find these things out.”
The final two games of the season are contingent on the team appropriately completing a remedial session, in which they will present to Vice President Finance and Administration Lily Fraser as well as Eagles.
The team will make their presentation this week, although a day and time has not been set.