LAMPASAS — Six Gatesville players who were suspended from action for their involvement in taking performance-enhancing drugs were reinstated just hours later by the UIL State Executive Committee, and will be eligible to play going forward.

After two hours of sometimes heated testimony, the District 13-4A Executive Committee voted 3-1 on Friday afternoon to suspend six Gatesville football players for violating UIL policy in taking performance-enhancing drugs.

The committee voted to suspend the players from all extracurricular activities for a period of 30 school days.

But Gatesville filed an immediate appeal to the UIL State Executive Committee, which met later Friday afternoon in Georgetown to address the case. That committee reversed the DEC’s ruling, citing a lack of conclusive evidence against the players.

Gatesville, 7-0 on the season and 2-0 in district play, plays at China Spring on Friday night. The players in question will all be allowed to play.

“There are no winners today,” Gatesville Superintendent Eric Penrod said. “It was a bad situation, and we worked through it to the best of our ability, in accordance with policy. I have no animosity toward the Burnet Superintendent or anyone else. They did what they felt right.

“There are no winners, but I’m just happy for our kids. Even though they did wrong, we dealt with it with what we felt what we felt was appropriate punishment. I’m happy that the kids will be able to go back to the field once and for all.”

At the district level, Superintendents Marc Faulkner of China Spring, Chance Rascoe of Lampasas and Sharon Shields of La Vega voted in favor of suspending the players. Superintendents Rob Hart of Liberty Hill, the committee chairman, voted not to suspend the athletes. Burnet Superintendent Keith McBurnett was not permitted to vote as the party that brought the matter to committee. Gatesville’s Penrod also abstained.

At one point during the two-hour meeting, Rascoe of Lampasas laid out the facts of the case in order to gain clarification, which were not disputed by Hanner and Gatesville athletic director Kyle Cooper. Six Gatesville athletes admitted to receiving multiple injections of a substance beginning in June at a cost of $100 per injection from a since-fired Gatesville assistant coach and a parent, Rascoe said. The parent is under prosecution, Rasoce added. All six athletes went through Gatesville’s summer weightlifting sessions and were administered drug tests on Aug. 21, 33 days after the incident was brought to the attention of Gatesville ISD officials, he said.

Rascoe said that Gatesville police had a vial of the injected substance in their possession and had not indentified its contents to either Gatesville ISD or the DEC, but that the vial was labeled “testosterone.”

Gatesville Police Chief Nathan Gohlke told the Tribune-Herald on Friday that the department is conducting an ongoing investigation into an adult giving “illegal substances” to Gatesville ISD students, but that no arrests have been made. Gohlke added that the Gatesville PD is working closely with the Coryell County District Attorney’s Office, and that the investigation remains “very active.”

Penrod and Cooper confirmed that Gatesville ISD suspended the athletes for 28 days in accordance with school district policy. The players missed one scrimmage against Glen Rose, but continued to practice with the team and did not miss any regular season action.

Penrod admitted that he was not a fan of his school district’s suspension policy.

“It’s an important question,” Penrod said. “It’s caused us to be reflective in what we can. Our policy is 10 years old, and there are too many holes in it to cover the bases with some of the situations present with today’s youth. We will revisit in (with the school board) in the spring with hopes of coming up with a new policy by next summer that is more stringent, and more consistent with UIL policy.”

Rascoe and Faulkner both argued that missing one scrimmage was not a suitable punishment.

“Are we going to send a message to our kids that you can use PEDs to try to gain a competitive advantage and miss one scrimmage game?” Rascoe said. “That’s not acceptable.”

Tiger Hanner, the Austin-based attorney representing the students, argued that there was no specific state law on the books that his clients broke and accused the committee of “grandstanding.” He and Cooper both questioned the timing of the district meeting.

“Why is this being brought up now?” Cooper said. “Why not in early August? We’re getting ready to play our third game of district and now this coming to fruition? I don’t feel it’s right for our program or our community.”

Hanner said that the meeting would have never happened if Gatesville weren’t “good at football.”

“We would not be here if Gatesville was 0-5. That’s why we’re here, and it’s embarrassing,” Hanner said.

Gatesville’s Penrod also questioned whether the committee was overstepping its bounds in addressing the matter at all. Burnet’s McBurnett said that he asked UIL officials if it fell under the committee’s purview and was assured that it did, since it related to extracurricular activities.

“So, just hear me out. If a kid smokes pot all day, then gets hungry and eats a whole lot of food and gains mass, would we deal with that? He’d have a competitive advantage,” Penrod said, to laughter from many people in the room.

Cooper expressed regret over the incident, but called the athletes “great kids” and felt that his character was under attack.

“We had a coach who did not meet our core values, and we’ve taken measures to correct that,” he said. “I regret that this happened. It’s been the hardest thing I’ve dealt with in my professional life. But we didn’t try to hide this. We handed it under local policy.”

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