Two Falcons charged with using

Updated: July 8, 2004, 10:41 PM ET
Associated Press

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Air Force football coach Fisher DeBerry expressed shock Thursday that two of his players face criminal charges for using steroids.

``I'm disappointed,'' DeBerry said before addressing a luncheon held by the Colorado Springs Sport Corp. ``But at the same time there'll be a normal proceedings and you just pray that these two young men that have been challenged, that things will work out positively for them. But I don't know.''

The Air Force Academy announced Tuesday that Matt Ward and Overton Spence have been charged with using steroids. Two other cadets who are not athletes were also charged.

Ward and Spence were suspended from the team following spring practice. Ward was the fourth-leading rusher for the Falcons last season with 384 yards, while Spence, saw action in every game last season and was a candidate for a starting job at linebacker this season.

Ward faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted and Spence could be sentenced to up to 25 years. One of the other cadets accused of distributing the steroids could be sent to prison for 65 years if convicted.

The loss of Ward and Spence comes as the Air Force has been gutted by injuries and graduation. This year the Falcons will return only one starter on offense and only three on defense.

Nevertheless, DeBerry, who is entering his 21st season at Air Force, was optimistic about the players who will eventually fill out the roster.

``You've always got to be anticipating injuries, and this is like an injury,'' DeBerry said. ``Whenever you lose a player, regardless of what it is, I think you have to look at it with that attitude, and there's got to be somebody else standing in line. And that's just a great opportunity. Whoever we choose to step in there and play, that they'll give us a great effort and we wont miss a lick.''

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press