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Blog: Petition drive shows support in eligibility fight for Georgia lineman Houston

Kolton Houston took his story nationally last weekend.

That spurred on a grass-roots online petition of support for the Georgia offensive lineman from Buford, who remains ineligible for testing positive for a banned substance he said he was injected with in high school to aid in his recovery from shoulder surgery.

Georgia and Houston, who was interviewed on ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” in a program that first aired on Sunday, say there has been no re-use since testing positive in 2010, but Houston still has not met the appropriate threshold that would allow him to play by the NCAA.

Nearly 3,200 have signed the online petition as of Friday midday asking for Houston to be declared eligible to play. He’s been banned since testing positive for the steroid Nandrolone as a freshman.

The petition was started by Jeremy Barton, a 2005 UGA graduate who lives in Napa, Calif. He’s a senior business analyst for Treasury Wine Estates, which owns six wineries in the Napa/Sonoma regions.

“I am very supportive of the NCAA’s efforts to safeguard fair play, however, in this particular case, it is apparent that those efforts have overshadowed what the NCAA states as its primary goal, to `focus on the development of our student-athletes,’ ” Barton said via email. “Rather than sending my letter with only my signature, I offered friends and family the opportunity to sign it with me via Change.org.  On Tuesday morning, 10 close friends had signed, and I had assumed that would be the extent of our petition. However, by lunchtime, over 600 individuals had signed, and before the end of the day, we had reached almost 2,000. I realized very quickly that I was far from the only person compelled to support Kolton’s reinstatement, and that the UGA community runs far deeper than I had imagined.”

Georgia players helped the cause by tweeting out a link to the petition.

The petition drew supporters from seven countries and 44 states, according to Barton. He sent copies of the petition to NCAA president Mark Emmert and Dr. Brian Hainline, the NCAA’s first chief medical officer, but had not heard back as of Thursday.

Georgia continues to hold out hope that Houston’s eligibility will be restored.

It insists that Houston, who has two years of eligibility remaining, doesn’t have a competitive advantage.

Houston told OTL that he had five fatty masses where he was given injections surgically removed in October. He also has undergone a 150-degree “sauna detox” program in an effort to become eligible and was given an experimental antibiotic.

Senior associate athletic director Ron Courson has continued to adminster drug tests for Houston.

Houston tested recently at about 4 nanongrams per millileter, down from 260 ng/ml initially. The NCAA acceptable level is 2.5 ng/ml.

“It’s so close,” Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said early this week. “The NCAA’s staff has been very helpful. It’s not as easy as it sounds. I think Ron’s relationship with all of those at the NCAA, they’re his peers that are in this review piece so we’re all trying to work together to try to find out how we can make this work. So we’re getting good communication back and forth. It’s not that we’re not getting any response from the NCAA. Ron has continuing conversation with the powers that be within the structure of the NCAA to see if there’s something we can do to help this young man out.”

–Please follow me at Twitter.com/marc.weiszer

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