Canadian athlete used steroids to cope with depression

Judy Owen, The Canadian Press

Jordan Matechuk revealed Wednesday a battle with depression played a role in his arrest last year for marijuana and steroid possession.

Now the Winnipeg Blue Bombers long snapper/fullback wants to talk about the mental illness in the hopes his story will help others.

“The things that happened to me, I did them to myself,” Matechuk said after the first day of Winnipeg’s mini camp.

“I live with depression. I suffer from the mental illness depression and I used steroids and marijuana as part of a coping mechanism to make me feel better and I’ve learnt.

“I went off my medication when I shouldn’t have and I’m with my doctor now working hard and we’re on the same page and we’re all working together here with the Bomber family and they’re making sure that everything is good.”

Matechuk, 26, was on his way to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats training camp from Alberta on May 31, 2011 when border authorities at Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., found he was carrying 543 anabolic steroid pills, 262 millilitres of anabolic steroids in liquid form, 1.25 grams of marijuana, 19 syringes and 51 replacement needles.

When the Ticats learned of his arrest about a week later, he was cut. The native of Yorkton, Sask., had been the team’s long snapper and played 41 games from 2008-2010.

Matechuk pleaded guilty last September and served 60 days in jail of his 90-day sentence.

The Bombers gave him a second chance when he was signed in February. He had attended the club’s training camp in 2007 and ’08 and once played for the Winnipeg Rifles junior squad.

He’s grateful for the opportunity he has on and off the field.

“(Depression is) hard to talk about, but I feel if I talk about it I can help others and be a positive influence in the community,” he said, adding he’s a guest speaker at a Yorkton football banquet next week.

He was diagnosed with depression two and a half years ago and admitted he was “fighting for my life in June.”

“I was fighting the inside demons and I overcame them and I’m feeling good and I’m ready to go here,” Matechuk said.

“It’s a big issue out there right now and, hopefully, working with the media here and working with the team that I can spread a lot of knowledge about the mental illnesses out there.”

A number of professional athletes suffering from depression have died during the past few years, including former Winnipeg Jets forward Rick Rypien.

Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice said Matechuk told him in an initial meeting that he wanted football to be an avenue to help people and that impressed him.

“When I heard that, I said, ‘We should give this kid another chance and sign him.’ And certainly I expect him to do that,” LaPolice said.

“He’s a good kid who made a mistake and I’m certain he’s going to fix that.”

Veteran Chris Cvetkovic is Winnipeg’s long snapper so Matechuk will have to earn a spot on the team through a role as a fullback and special-teams player, LaPolice said.

Matechuk is willing to do whatever it takes to turn his life around.

“I’ve made mistakes in my life and, fortunately, I was able to learn from my mistakes that I made,” he said.

“And I’m just here and happy to be here and excited to do what I do. I really love football.”

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