Anti-Doping Crusader Steps Down

Univ of Waterloo AD and good friend of THF steps down

Bob Copeland is leaving his post as the University of Waterloo’s athletics director after enduring one of the most turbulent periods in the school’s history.

Copeland has resigned from UW, effective this fall, ending a five-year term, the university announced Friday.

The 48-year-old Woodstock resident’s run was fraught with as many hills as valleys, as he shepherded his university through one of the biggest doping scandals ever in Canadian sport.

But it was Copeland’s reaction to those trying events in 2010 – and his follow through – which turned him into one of Canada’s leading anti-doping crusaders, said his counterpart at Wilfrid Laurier University.

“Bob gets it,” said WLU’s Peter Baxter. “He understands how sports can transform people’s lives. He turned something terrible (the steroid controversy) into something extremely good.”

Back in 2010, Copeland was tipped off by police when one of UW’s football players was arrested and later convicted for possession of a large stash of performance-enhancing drugs.

Copeland immediately ordered unprecedented teamwide testing.

Those tests revealed nine doping violations among the football Warriors, including the first North American athlete to test positive for human growth hormone.

Copeland’s “courageous” actions shone a light on the persistent problem of doping, Texas-based clean sport advocate Don Hooton, said at the time.

Ever since, Copeland has been at the vanguard of a movement to shore up testing and anti-doping education for Canada’s university athletes.

He helped to launch a number of clean-sport task forces, a peer education project at both local universities and an anti-doping outreach program for local students in Grades 7 through 12.

“Ordering the drug tests of his football team was the right thing to do. It was a game-changer, ” said Hooton.

“It changed the way PEDs are dealt with in Canadian universities. And the University of Waterloo put the health and well-being of its kids ahead of everything else.”

Copeland also stood behind senior administration’s unpopular decision to suspend the football team through the 2011 season.

An alumnus and former football player at UW, Copeland also ushered in the expansion of Warrior Field and spearheaded the school’s decision to offer athletic scholarships for incoming student-athletes.

He is also credited with bringing in several high-profile coaches like the men’s basketball coach at Waterloo, Greg Francis, and its new head football coach, Joe Paopao.

“It’s the right time for me and for the department,” Copeland said on Friday.

“I’m looking at new opportunities. There’s another chapter for me to write. I’m expecting to land on the sporting planet.”

Copeland would not say what prompted his decision. But two independent sources indicated Copeland may have run into administrative roadblocks as he tried to chart a bold course for UW athletics.

Copeland’s departure comes after a 17-year career in various capacities at UW, including a stint as the school’s associate vice-president of development and alumni affairs.

“We will miss his passion and determination to advance the university,” Chris Read, UW’s associate provost of students, said in a release.

“I think his decision caught a lot of people by surprise,” said Paopao. “I’ll miss him, too. A lot has happened under Bob’s watch in a good way.”

Copeland said he’ll continue his advocacy work in clean sport.

“I have zero regrets.”

He leaves the university on Nov. 1.

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