Blue Bomber Report Record: 3–1–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Matechuk tackles his demons

Prospect comes clean on drug use, depression

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Coming clean has been a popular theme for Jordan Matechuk of late.

Following some serious legal troubles from a drug bust at the Canada-U.S. border in May 2011, the Winnipeg resident is working out with the Blue Bombers with the hopes of cracking the 2012 roster as a fullback/special teams player/backup long snapper option.

He was an active participant at mini camp Wednesday, making an outstanding catch over the coverage of Henoc Muamba, the club's top draft pick of a year ago.

That wasn't the best part of his day, though.

Matechuk's second chance at football started with a difficult public admission Wednesday.

"I live with depression, I suffer from the mental illness of depression," he told reporters. "I used steroids and marijuana as part of a coping mechanism to make me feel better. I went off my medication when I shouldn't of. I'm with my doctor now working hard and we're on the same page, and we're all working together with the Bomber family.

"I was diagnosed 21/2 years ago and this is the first time publically speaking about it," he added. "I was fighting for my life last year in June. It's a hard thing to talk about but I feel if I talk about I can help others."

The former Winnipeg Rifle, who attended Winnipeg training camps in 2007 and 2008, has appeared in 41 games with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in his short CFL career.

Matechuk's legal troubles came about prior to training camp last season. He was found to be in possession of 543 anabolic steroid pills, 262 millilitres of anabolic steroids in liquid form, 1.25 grams of marijuana, 19 syringes and 51 replacement needles at the international border, a seizure that led to his release from the Ticats and a guilty plea to the felony and misdemeanor charges.

He was sentenced to 90 days of prison time last fall (he served 60 days).

Forced to face his depression head-on now, Matechuk knew if he could shed some more light on the mental illness through his own experiences then maybe he could help those who don't have the strength to come clean with themselves.

The message would be stronger as a football player, he thought, so he approached the Bombers for a job. Full marks to the club: They listened to his sales pitch and signed him in February.

"Jordan came into our office and talked about (helping) people in this community," coach Paul LaPolice said. "He said 'I made some poor decisions and I want to be able to educate people. Football is an avenue to help people.' When I heard that, I said we should give this kid another chance."

LaPolice couldn't single out a specific instance of dealing with a player affected by depression and surprisingly, the coach was somewhat dismissive of the subject -- how depression can negatively impact the sheltered lives of professional athletes -- when it came up with reporters Wednesday.

Depression is still felt within the Winnipeg sports community. Rick Rypien, the former Manitoba Moose, Vancouver Canuck and Winnipeg Jets player, took his own life as a result of depression last summer.

"I don't know if we want to put (Jordan) Matechuk in that same position right now," LaPolice said. "It's uncomfortable for me to put that association together."

An uncomfortable association, yes, but it's one that can't be dismissed when the discussion comes up. Mental illnesses like depression are dark and difficult areas in the sports world but the more conversation that happens, the more light that's put on it, the more likely people will recognize the symptoms within themselves and seek out treatment.

Matechuk said he isn't going to disappear into the shadows again.

"It's a real issue in my life; it's a real world issue," he said. "I'm not the only one out there dealing with depression. There have been other athletes that have been involved in this.

"I'm going to bring some greatness out of this."

adam.wazny@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 26, 2012 C4

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