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T.J. Simers: The suspension of UCLA's Kai Maiava raises questions

September 8, 2011 | 10:04 am

Photo: Kai Maiava. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times.  

Simers_100 I hesitate to call our Chris Foster a crack reporter, knowing that Foster’s sources are the ones who have linked a positive marijuana test to UCLA center Kai Maiava.

Someone might misunderstand, so let’s just say Foster is very good at what he does when no one wants to come clean.

UCLA announced at the start of the week that Maiava, one of the team’s top players, was being suspended for the San Jose State game for an undisclosed violation of team rules.

Then school officials refused to say anything more.

OK, so forget about your opinions of marijuana and whether it should or should not be legalized, and stay on point here.

Under UCLA’s drug policy, as Foster wrote, "an athlete is suspended for the next athletic contest after testing positive for a third time."

Keep in mind for a moment the words: "The next athletic contest."

Foster went on to wrote, "Last season, four UCLA players were suspended for a game after testing positive for marijuana a third time."

So we know some of the football players at UCLA don’t necessarily believe in putting football first, the team or all that other rah-rah stuff.

UCLA observers say Maiava is the one offensive lineman the Bruins can’t afford to lose, but apparently he didn’t feel the same way.

The lack of football commitment at UCLA is a topic for another day, or already maybe a commentary on why the Bruins consistently disappoint.

But call me skeptical -- in addition to all the other names already used: Aren’t the Bruins darn lucky that Maiava was caught at a time when he will only have to miss the easiest game on UCLA’s schedule?

But I wonder. Did Maiava test positive before the season opener in Houston, no one wanting the Bruins to get off to a bad start, so the Bruins waited until after the game to discipline him?

Some deterrent.

Would UCLA have handled things differently if Maiava wasn’t so vital to the team’s chances of success? Did he test positive before the opener, file an appeal as the rules allow, and as a result buy an extra week on the field?

Foster asked, but UCLA won’t comment.

So what about UCLA’s credibility, and that of Coach Rick Neuheisel?

Could he do such a thing, holding off discipline until San Jose State? Has he done such a thing? Would Athletic Director Dan Guerrero be a party to such a thing?

Appearances alone can be very damaging, and this appears like the very best time for a UCLA player to be suspended if it’s going to happen. Tell me that didn’t cross your mind.

UCLA’s cloak of secrecy is applied in these situations to protect the privacy of its students. Odd, isn’t it? A kid risks testing positive a third time knowing it’s going to result in a public suspension, and then everyone protects him.

Maybe UCLA has done everything exactly according to protocol here, the school taking an unavoidable credibility hit on this one because of the timing.

But we already know the time has passed to take anyone’s word in college football on anything -- no ethical limit these days to what some people will do.

Good thing we have a crack reporter on the job.

MORE:

Brian Blechen is the everywhere man for Utah

Marc Tyler's return creates intrigue at tailback for USC

UCLA center Kai Maiava suspended a game for positive marijuana test

--T.J. Simers

Photo: Kai Maiava. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

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