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This article was published 26/8/2019 (514 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Stanley Bryant usually plows ahead to give Andrew Harris some space, but Monday morning he waited for the star running back to emerge from the crowd before providing some support.

The mammoth offensive lineman was among about a dozen Blue Bombers that greeted a visibly distraught Harris after the Winnipegger met with the press to discuss a positive drug test that carries an automatic two-game suspension.

Harris denied he knowingly ingested the banned performance-enhancing substance metandienone, and Bryant doesn't doubt it one bit.

"Andrew’s a great guy, on and off the football field. (He is) a competitor, a sweet guy (who) loves his teammates, loves the game. I don’t think he would jeopardize anything, the legacy or how things are going now," Bryant told reporters. "You just love the guy. We’re talking about Andrew Harris. The city, the fans, everyone just loves him."

Harris told a few of his teammates last week he was being investigated but addressed the rest of the squad Sunday.

Bryant, named the CFL's top O-lineman the past two seasons, felt a responsibility to be there for Harris when the particularly difficult meeting with the media wrapped up.

"We felt it was important because we know that Andrew needed support from us. We wanted to show him we have his back 100 per cent," he said. "We believe that it was an honest mistake. He has no reason to lie to us or (media), so we feel like we needed to show that love and support."

Injured quarterback Matt Nichols said he's standing by his friend and favourite offensive weapon.

"I’m one of those people that supports my friends in triumph and turmoil," said Nichols. "It’s an unfortunate thing. I know Andrew and I think people will be wrong to question his integrity, and going out of his way to purposely do this is not in his character or is something that’s questioned in our locker room.

"It’s not something he would knowingly do or go out of his way to do. It’s not something he needs."

The league's rushing leader will miss the Labour Day Classic this weekend in Regina and the Banjo Bowl a week later in Winnipeg. The Bombers have a bye week and then he can return to action when the team faces the Alouettes in Montreal on Sept. 21.

Winnipeg head coach Mike O'Shea said he was shocked when he heard the news "a number of days ago" and is convinced Harris ingested the drug unintentionally.

"Obviously disbelief, and feel for the guy. Andrew's worked so bloody hard to get to where he's at, and to do things the right way. Certainly shock, and then want to make sure he's OK," said O'Shea.

"Ultimately, every athlete in any sport that has a drug-testing policy is responsible for what they ingest. And Andrew knows that. He's not side-stepping that. He's responsible for that. Just the fact he was tested 10 days prior with a blood and urine sample, and that came back clean.... to me it's pretty evident he ingested something in a supplement that he was unaware was contaminated and then tested positive 10 days later."

Already forced to go with backup QB Chris Streveler, O'Shea has a big decision to make on a replacement for Harris as the club prepares for the Roughriders on successive weekends. Johnny Augustine, who hails from Welland, Ont., is next in line on the roster; the club also has Minnesota product John Santiago on the practice roster.

The Blue Bombers return to the practice field Wednesday.

"I'm very confident in our depth. I'm very confident in our guys. And not just the depth on our team (but) the willingness of everybody on our team to step up for their teammates," said O'Shea. "When a new guy gets an opportunity, no matter how he gets the opportunity, our guys around him seem to really rally to make sure they get an easy ride."

He said Harris will practice and attend all team meetings, despite the fact he can't be anywhere near the group on game days.

"Most guys, when a situation happens through injury or something like this, I damn near force them to be with the team. Because that's what they need. They need the support of their teammates. Andrew's no different," said O'Shea. "I want him around, surrounded by his teammates, guys that care about him and believe in him."

Meanwhile, club president and CEO Wade Miller said the team co-operated fully with the league’s investigation and supports the ruling.

"The Winnipeg Blue Bombers fully support the CFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs and have fully co-operated with the CFL in regard to this matter," he said, in a statement.

"The Winnipeg Football Club also supports Andrew Harris through this extremely difficult and unfortunate situation. We look forward to Andrew rejoining us on the field for game days following the bye week."

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Assistant sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

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