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As I pulled into the school parking lot, I had a faint smile on my face as I remembered my first day of high school last year. Greg had given Tami and me a ride, even though I wasn’t sure if she was talking to me. We’d a falling-out the previous spring over my drug and alcohol use. Greg made it a point to give me a speech on how I wasn’t supposed to embarrass him. When we reached the school, he kissed Cindy Lewis, one of the hottest girls at Lincoln High, in the parking lot.

It had been the beginning of a wild year. As I looked around, none of the three people who had kicked off last year were around. I missed them all, but that wasn’t going to slow me down. I had big plans for this year. The first was to win a State Championship for Lincoln High. I wasn’t sure how I would accomplish that, since I was playing on the JV team, but I would make it happen somehow.

As I walked up to the front door, I saw the freshman cheerleaders trying to figure things out. I decided I would help them.

“Ladies, are you ready for your first day of high school?” I asked.

Standing before me were Emma, Piper, Kylie and Faith. Emma and Piper were fraternal twins. Emma was the tallest of the group at five-ten, and had long, straight brown hair. Her sister, Piper, was a couple of inches shorter and was a blond. Kylie was the shortest of the group with curly hair and a perky personality. Faith was the most reserved. Her alabaster skin contrasted nicely with her raven-black hair. They all gave me big smiles when I talked to them. Three more girls walked up and looked at me hopefully. I guessed they were also cheerleaders. Kylie, being the most outgoing one, spoke for the group.

“Yes, we’re excited to get the year started. We didn’t realize you’d be the welcoming committee,” she teased me.

“I do what I can,” I told her. “I know Emma, Piper and Faith. Who are your cute friends?” I asked.

“Carmela and Gabriella are cousins, and this is Ann. They’ll all be on the squad this year,” Kylie said.

Carmela and Gabriella could have been twins. They were Hispanic, and about Kylie’s height, with black hair. Ann was a strawberry blond who had braces. The three new girls were rail-thin. I shook all their hands, and welcomed them to Lincoln High.

We walked into chaos as everyone was excited to be back to school. I escorted the girls to where the freshman lockers were, and looked at all their schedules, so I could point them to their first class. The bell rang, and I wished them luck.

— 

After school, I went to get ready for football practice. Coach Stevens was standing at the locker room door with someone I’d never met.

“Hang on, David. Before you go to practice, you have to be tested,” Coach Stevens said.

I was confused. The man next to him explained.

“We’ve had a complaint alleging steroid use at Lincoln High. I’ve been hired by the High School Athletic Association to conduct a random test of football players.”

Several things raced through my mind.  The first was that Mom had been right; something like this couldn’t be kept a secret. The ass-hats had brought this on us all, because they needed a shortcut. I was pissed, because I’d put the work in. If I somehow tested positive, I could kiss my college career goodbye.

The upside was that they had selected me. If the ass-hats tested positive, me having a negative test would clear me of wrongdoing. This was a nightmare. I was sure the seniors would target us as the ones who’d turned them in. Brad and his boys would be out for blood.

I went with the man and peed in the cup as he watched. I followed him to the training room where Mr. Hasting, our head trainer, logged in the specimen. I was sent to Coach Hope’s office. I found Brad and several of the senior and junior ass-hats in his office. He made us wait until all the juniors and seniors were tested. Most of the guys looked nervous. Brad made a point to glare at me. He backed off some when Jim, Wolf, and Mike walked in also.

When we were all done taking the test, Coach Hope finally spoke.

“This morning we were informed by the High School Athletic Association that there was credible evidence that members of the Lincoln High football team have been using anabolic steroids. I’ve been in contact with our athletic director, and the School District’s attorney. They’ve directed me to cooperate fully with the HSAA in conducting their investigation,” Coach Hope told us.

He looked genuinely disturbed and bowed his head for a moment to gather his thoughts. I was sure he knew the accusation was true. He also had to know Brad was involved. He looked back up and continued.

“The HSAA tells me we’ll have the results of the test next Monday,” Coach Hope said, while looking right at Brad. “I’m troubled by this. My first reaction was to forfeit the game on Friday. The School District’s attorney reminded me that people are innocent until proven guilty. I’ve been directed to act as if nobody has broken any rules until the results are back.

“I’m allowed to tell you the consequences if you flunk the drug test. If you’re found to be using steroids, you’ll be kicked off the team and won’t be allowed to participate in athletics at Lincoln High for the rest of the year. That includes spring semester. If you come back next year, and wish to participate in athletics, you’ll be subjected to random drug tests until you graduate.

“If, between now and the time we receive your test results back, you decide to quit the team, your results will not be opened. If you take that approach, you’re still finished at Lincoln High as far as athletics are concerned. However, Lincoln High will keep the document with your result sealed until you either leave or graduate. At that time, the document will be destroyed.

“Are there any questions?” Coach Hope asked.

“If a player participates in a game and is later found to be positive, what’ll happen?” Brad asked.

“We’ll forfeit the game,” Coach told us.

“What if a player quits after the game and their results aren’t known?” Brad asked.

“Same thing. We will forfeit the game,” Coach said. “We will not job the system. If there’s even a suspicion of steroid use, and someone plays, we’ll do the right thing.”

My opinion of Coach Hope went way up. I was glad to see he wasn’t going to mess around with this. I had one question, and I needed everyone to hear the answer.

“Coach, do we know where the accusation came from? Was it anyone associated with Lincoln High?” I asked.

He looked at me, and got it. He shook his head.

“This didn’t come from anyone at Lincoln. Let me repeat that: no one associated with Lincoln High made the accusation,” he said, looking Brad and the ass-hats in the eye.

I saw Brad flinch when his dad’s eyes locked on him. He left no doubt we were not involved. With that, the meeting was over. Coach Diamond and Coach Stevens grabbed the JV guys who were in the meeting and pulled us into a room.

“I had to have you guys tested,” Coach Stevens told us.

Wolf and Jim looked pissed. I just nodded, while Mike looked at his shoes.

“I did it to clear your names. You all have the talent to play in college. I suspect if this is pushed to the limit, it’ll be a big news story. You’ll need the test results to help prove you weren’t involved. Even with the test results, this may hurt your recruiting.”

“The entire coaching staff believes none of you are involved. We’ll do everything we can to help you,” Coach Diamond assured us.

We then went to practice. This kind of took the fun out of it.

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