York United will have to keep up their push to secure a Canadian Premier League playoff spot without one of their leading stars.
The club announced on Monday morning that striker Osaze De Rosario, the son of Canadian soccer legend Dwayne, has been suspended by the league for one month effective immediately after testing positive for THC. He will be ineligible not only for matches but also for training with his teammates during that month, and he will be eligible to return to the squad in early September.
De Rosario, 22, has been sanctioned by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) for violating an anti-doping law by inadvertently ingesting THC days before an in-competition urine test on Oct. 1, 2022.
THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, is a legal substance in Canada but is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) List of Prohibited Substances. Its use is prohibited in competition and on match days, but not outside of competition.
“Last September, I unknowingly consumed THC after eating an unlabelled dessert at a dinner gathering I attended days before a match,” said De Rosario in a statement. “I understand that cannabis is legal in Canada but is also prohibited in-competition in some professional sports.
“I did not intentionally eat cannabis, but I take responsibility for my actions and will abide by the sanction. This will allow me to get back on the field in the shortest timeframe allowed under the CCES rules. I apologize to my club, the coaching staff, my teammates, our supporters, and my family for not being available this month.”
A one-month suspension is the most lenient sanction for a THC violation under CCES rules. York United said that leniency “reflects De Rosario’s inadvertent exposure to THC.”
York’s president and CEO Angus McNab called the situation “regrettable” and said the club finds it “disappointing that a sanction is required under these circumstances.”
McNab notes that leading sports leagues around the world including the NBA, the NHL, and MLB ceased testing for cannabis in recent years.
“The fact is, if Osaze played for the Toronto Raptors, the Toronto Blue Jays, or the Toronto Maple Leafs in the same city, he would not be sanctioned. We strongly urge WADA to review the inclusion of THC on its prohibited list for the benefit of all current and future Canadian soccer players.”
The status of THC as a legal substance but a banned one in soccer can be debated at great length. Can weed really be defined as a performance-enhancing or altering drug?
Former Toronto FC striker Jozy Altidore made it clear how he feels.
De Rosario, York’s all-time leading scorer, has three goals and two assists in 18 games this season. He also leads the team with two assists and 27 shots on goal. Last year’s CPL Under-21 Player of the Year Award nominee has only missed one CPL game for the Nine Stripes this year but will now miss a minimum of the next four games of York’s run-in towards the end of the regular season.
Considering the inadvertent offence occurred in October last year, it will also frustrate McNab and York United that the ruling has taken so long. The club will now be without one of their key players for a large chunk of the late-season playoff chase.
Shorn of De Rosario’s creativity and firepower, in his absence, York’s head coach Martin Nash will have to rely more heavily on strikers Austin Ricci and Brian Wright, who have just one goal each in 2023.