ATHENS - The long-running Kolton Houston eligibility saga has finally come to a positive end for the Georgia offensive lineman.
Houston, ruled ineligible three years ago because of a positive drug test, was reinstated by the NCAA on Thursday, after, according to UGA, Houston "met the exit threshold following his most recent NCAA drug screening."
Houston got the news on Thursday, which happened to be his 22nd birthday.
“This is the best birthday present I’ve ever had,” Houston said in a statement released by UGA. “I had almost reached the point where I thought this situation would never end. When I got the call, I broke down and cried for about 30 minutes. I had that much emotion stored up and it felt good to get it out. I’m ready now to show what I can do.”
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Houston first tested positive for norandrolone, an anabolic steroid, when he enrolled at Georgia in 2010. According to Houston and UGA, he was administered the illegal drug by an "unscrupulous" doctor after shoulder surgery. The residue from the drug stayed in Houston's system, causing him to continually test above the threshold allowed by the NCAA.
UGA pushed for Houston's reinstatement, arguing that the test results showed there had been no new use by Houston. The NCAA refused over and over.
A couple months ago, Houston told ESPN's "Outside the Lines" that he had surgery to try to remove muscle mass where some of the residue had been identified. It didn't work, but apparently further efforts worked. Houston will speak to the media at a news conference Friday morning at the UGA athletic facility.
“This has been a long and very complex case and we have tried to be advocates for Kolton throughout this three-year process,” UGA head athletic trainer Ron Courson said in a statement. “We would like to thank the NCAA staff, as well as the members of the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports, who assisted with this case. There are a number of medical professionals who played key roles in this appeal, from physicians to pharmacists to biomedical researchers to drug toxicologists. This was truly a team effort.”
Courson added: “I hope that all student-athletes will take note of this case and use extreme caution when taking supplements or medications of any kind, ensuring beforehand that they are safe and permissible,” said Courson.
It's unlikely that Houston will immediately be a factor on the offensive line, at least when preseason practice begins next Thursday. He did not participate in spring practice this year. He finished spring practice of 2012 as the first-team right tackle, a spot that John Theus took when he arrived later that year. Since then, Houston has only been working out periodically with the team, and he likely has dropped weight through the surgeries.
Every Georgia offensive lineman who started or saw significant action returns this season, so Houston will have a lot of competition to leapfrog in order to climb the depth chart. But at this point, he is simply happy to be eligible.
The news of his reinstatement brought immediate reaction from current and past teammates. Starting center David Andrews tweeted: "The man, the myth, the legend is back." Receiver Marlon Brown tweeted at Houston: "So you not a coach no more, lol. Congrats bro, I'm happy for you." ESPN personality Scott Van Pelt also sent Houston a tweet of congratulations.
The Buford native will have two years of eligibility remaining, with the chance to apply for a third year following the 2014 season. Houston does not get the previous two seasons back, because the NCAA still considers him to have been ineligible.
“The big thing is that we’re just really happy for Kolton,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said in a statement. “We’re thankful for all the work Ron Courson put in and for those who kept believing, but mostly we’re happy for him. We don’t want to put any pressure on him like now he’s got to be a star. The bottom line is, we’re happy he’ll be able to participate for Georgia. We’re glad it all worked out.”