Troubles Following Trojans Into Camp
As the USC football team arrived for the start of training camp Wednesday morning, about a dozen players were told to report for drug testing at noon, their names selected at random.
“Everyone knows we’re getting tested at the end of the summer,” offensive tackle Kyle Williams said. “They say [the selection] is done by computer, that they just press a button.”
For the record:
12:00 a.m. Aug. 5, 2006 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday August 05, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 81 words Type of Material: Correction
USC football: A story in Thursday’s Sports section about troubles in the USC football program stated that, according to state medical board records, Dr. Arthur Ting was serving five years’ probation for distributing “dangerous drugs and controlled substances to friends and acquaintances, particularly athletes, for whom he kept no medical records or for whom the medical records were fictitious, inadequate or inaccurate.” Ting denied that allegation and agreed to be placed on probation for being “negligent in his supervision of subordinates.”
But the annual rite might have seemed less routine this time, coming hours after most players learned that defensive back Brandon Ting, who unexpectedly quit the team last week, had tested positive for steroids.
The reaction was mixed, most players expressing support for the testing regimen, others simply shocked by the news.
Preseason polls have the Trojans in the top 10 but they are not the juggernaut they have been in recent seasons, needing to replace quarterback Matt Leinart and tailbacks Reggie Bush and LenDale White, all now in the NFL. Just as important, the program cannot seem to shake a series of off-season troubles.
In the final week of April, Bush and All-American receiver Dwayne Jarrett came under scrutiny for potential violation of NCAA rules. News cameras showed quarterback Mark Sanchez arrested -- he was not subsequently charged -- on suspicion of sexual assault.
In June, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office charged former defensive lineman Frostee Rucker with two misdemeanor counts of spousal battery and two counts of vandalism in connection with an alleged August 2005 altercation.
Players and coaches said they were eager to start camp, if only to leave behind the contrail of several tumultuous months.
Then word came about Ting’s positive test.
Just last week, Brandon and his identical twin, Ryan, also a defensive back, announced they were quitting football to concentrate on preparing for medical school. Neither could be reached Wednesday for comment.
The brothers had garnered more attention than might be expected for players who served mostly as backups and on special teams last season. They were flamboyant in appearance -- small but sharply muscular, with black hair spiked and bleached at the tips -- and were given to strutting onto the field before games.
Their father, Arthur Ting, is an orthopedic surgeon who serves as physician for various San Francisco Bay Area teams, including the San Jose Sharks of the NHL. He was recently drawn into the BALCO steroids scandal because of his association with Barry Bonds.
The elder Ting operated on the San Francisco Giants slugger and, according to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle, was called before a grand jury to testify about visiting the BALCO offices where he reportedly drew Bonds’ blood for testing.
The surgeon could not be reached for comment.
According to the state medical board records, Arthur Ting is also serving a five-year probation for distributing “dangerous drugs and controlled substances to friends and acquaintances, particularly athletes, for whom he kept no medical records or for whom the medical records were fictitious, inadequate or inaccurate.”
The accusation did not identify the athletes other than to say that some were members of a motorcycle racing team. They and others were provided various medications, including painkillers and sleeping pills, but not steroids.
USC Athletic Director Mike Garrett said the drug test that Brandon Ting failed was administered by the NCAA. If still on the team, he would have faced a one-year suspension.
It remained unclear how this situation might affect his stated ambition to study medicine, preferably at USC. In a prepared statement, the university’s Keck School of Medicine declined to “engage in a discussion of hypothetical situations concerning applicant qualifications.”
An NCAA official said that if USC provides drug education -- and school officials say they have -- teams are not held accountable for use of banned substances by players.
“A positive drug test is basically an individual sanction,” said Mary Wilfert, an NCAA associate director of health and safety.
The NCAA recently announced that 49 student-athletes tested positive for steroids in 2004-05, down from 92 in 1999-2000. The association also began testing football and baseball players away from school this summer.
USC has been administering its own drug tests since the mid-1980s. Players testing positive a first time get counseling, but they are punished for a second offense, a source said. A third positive results in dismissal from the team. Schools are not required to report these results to the NCAA.
On Wednesday, as players heard about Ting, they spoke of the temptation to use steroids and nutritional supplements that might be tainted with banned substances.
“If we didn’t have this testing rule, I’m sure it would be like baseball five years ago -- everybody’s on it,” linebacker Oscar Lua said.
The testing is supposed to be random but fullback Brandon Hancock sometimes wonders. The senior knows that his muscular build and recurring injuries have spurred rumors of steroid use. Hancock said he has been tested eight to 10 times by USC and at least three times by the NCAA.
He said he has never tested positive but joked: “It’s like I’m part of the usual suspects.”
Coach Pete Carroll said that he did not plan to mention Ting specifically to the team but would continuing talking about steroids.
In the meantime, Bush remains under investigation and Jarrett remains ineligible as he awaits a ruling by the NCAA.
Though prosecutors said they did not have sufficient evidence to charge Sanchez, the quarterback faces team discipline for using fake identification and drinking alcohol at a nightclub.
Rucker, now with the Cincinnati Bengals, is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 11.
Asked if the Ting incident suggests his team has a problem with steroid use, Carroll said “absolutely not.”
“We’re all over this,” the coach said of USC’s prevention efforts. But, he added: “That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.”