ATHENS, Ga. — There is still no light at the end of Kolton Houston's tunnel.
Georgia's redshirt sophomore right tackle earned a starting spot in spring practice, but he remains ineligible after testing positive for a banned performance-enhancing substance. Bulldogs football coach Mark Richt had not revealed specifics about Houston's situation until Thursday's media day that preceded the first of 28 preseason practices.
"It's been a very difficult situation for Kolton, his family and for us," Richt said. "He's been tested probably more times than anybody in the history of college football."
According to 19 pages of information released by Georgia, the 6-foot-5, 291-pounder was given a random NCAA drug test on April 13, 2010, in which he tested positive for Norandrolone at a level of 260 nanograms per milliliter. Richt said Houston unknowingly took the substance after suffering a shoulder injury while playing at Buford High School.
Georgia director of sports medicine Ron Courson said Houston took a test through the university on July 21, 2011, in which his Norandrolone level was at 9 ng/ml, which was below the 10 ng/ml cutoff. Athletic officials then contacted the National Center for Drug Free Sport used by the NCAA for a test, but Houston's count on that was 49 ng/ml.
Houston had undergone a sports massage program with the intent of reducing the count, but Courson believes that caused the spike in data. Courson said Norandrolone is an anabolic steroid that is notorious for staying in a person's system for a long time, and he contends this is an "extremely unique and complex case" and that testing shows there has been no re-use in the past 27 months.
"Based on the numbers, we thought it would have exited his system by now, but it did plateau," Courson said. "Everybody metabolizes substances in a different way, and for whatever reason, his body is metabolizing this at a slower rate. His level is so low that I would challenge anybody to say there is any performance-enhancing value whatsoever."
The NCAA actually banned Houston from competition for life following a second positive test in February 2011, but Georgia successfully appealed that the test revealed only residual from the initial use.
Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity wrote NCAA president Mark Emmert three weeks ago asking for a restoration of eligibility for Houston but was denied. Emmert sent his response Tuesday.
"I certainly understand the institution's desire to help Kolton since it believes he has done the 'right' thing for the past two and a half years by not taking performance-enhancing substances," Emmert wrote. "However, that is the expectation for all of our student-athletes. The fact remains that Kolton currently has the presence of a banned substance in his system, and he will not be able to compete in NCAA competition until that presence drops to an appropriate threshold."
Houston practiced with the Bulldogs on Thursday, but his teammates remain as flustered with his situation as Richt and Courson.
"It's tough, obviously, because it's something he didn't want, and it's not really something he can control either," right guard Chris Burnette said. "It's just tough having to see this knowing how much talent he has and how much ability he has and him just having to sit on the sidelines and wait. Hopefully this can get resolved before the season starts."
Said quarterback Aaron Murray: "I feel bad for everything Kolton is going through. I know he's working hard to get back."
Richt is having the Bulldogs prepare as if Houston will not be available for the Sept. 1 opener against Buffalo, adding that sophomore Watts Dantzler and freshman John Theus would be the top right tackles. A former Dalton High standout, Dantzler is listed at 6-7 and 310 pounds in the media guide but is listed at 320 on the preseason roster that was handed out Thursday.
"Watts has really gotten tougher physically and mentally since he's been here," Burnette said. "I feel like he's always had the athleticism and the smarts to be able to do it. If he winds up getting that spot, then I think he'll do a great job and we'll push forward and do good things."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...