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Andrew Harris maintains his violation of the CFL and players’ union drug policy was unintentional, and that the banned performance-enhancing steroid metandienone entered his system by way of a contaminated health supplement.

He wouldn’t say where he purchased the supplement, nor the product’s brand name, just that it was a men’s energy supplement taken in pill form.

Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press Files</p><p>Fitness coach Richard Burr races up a steep incline at Winnipeg's Westview Park. Burr is a former Blue Bombers trainer who now operates his own athletic therapy business.</p>

Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press Files

Fitness coach Richard Burr races up a steep incline at Winnipeg's Westview Park. Burr is a former Blue Bombers trainer who now operates his own athletic therapy business.

Is that a reasonable argument, or a desperate effort by a bona fide Canadian football star and the undisputed golden boy of the entire Winnipeg Blue Bombers organization to salvage his reputation in the locker room, the city and across the league that was, prior to Monday, beyond reproach?

A former Blue Bombers trainer, who now operates his own athletic therapy business in the city and calls many high-profile professional athletes his clients, insists it’s entirely possible the stuff the star running back purchased was, plain and simply, a recipe for disaster.

"As far as substances showing up in your body, testing is getting more and more accurate all the time and picks up trace amounts all the time. But unfortunately, in the supplement industry, it is a very unregulated industry, so you have some supplements that are third-party tested, certified pure, and then you have the majority of supplements that are made in factories in China, which produce various substances and there’s cross-contamination," Richard Burr said.

"Unfortunately, a player takes that unbeknownst to him or her and they test positive for a banned substance, when that wasn’t the intention at all to take. In the supplement industry, cross-contamination happens all the time. So it’s super important to know what you’re taking, to research what you’re taking." 

Burr said the supplement industry is barely regulated, and potentially dangerous products are slipping through the cracks.

"As far as the supplement goes, it could be a liquid, it could be a tablet or a powder. And for the cross-contamination, it’s equal in all of those things. It’s those mixing vats. If they half-ass clean those out, these supposedly (certified) supplements get mixed with traces of a banned substance and then it ends up in a person, and testing procedures pick these things up," he said. "Careers can be ruined from it."

Metandienone is an anabolic steroid derived from testosterone — developed in Germany and introduced to the U.S. and Canada in the 1960s — and has been banned universally in amateur and pro sports. When ingested intentionally, it’s believed to improve physical performance by increasing both muscle strength and mass.

When told small amounts of the banned substance had been found in a urine sample July 12 and again in a second test of the same sample, Harris immediately thought there had to be some kind of mistake.

"I took a supplement... that stated it was all natural ingredients. Obviously, it wasn’t. And I’m taking full responsibility for the fact that I did take that. But from the ingredients listed on the label, it said all-natural," he told reporters Monday morning.

"It’s basically anti-oxidant, multi-vitamin, and then there’s some natural testosterone enhancers. A lot of these companies work with different labs and different manufacturers, and my assumption is that’s where it came from. I’m going to be working on trying to figure out the actual source.

"Going through this experience, now I want to work with the (union) and be a spokesperson for this. This could happen to anyone. I would never intentionally cheat. And I’m in a situation right now where I’m being questioned. And it hurts."

Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols said he believes Harris had no intention of using a banned substance for performance-enhancing purposes, adding the star running back isn’t his first teammate to get snared in a drug controversy by accident. 

"I have multiple friends in my 10 years up here that have had things like this where the contamination jumps in and guys have no idea how it happens. Obviously, it turns into a big thing when it’s a guy like Andrew, the best in the business," Nichols said. 

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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