Coach: Two 'didn't know what they were taking'

7/23/2004 - Air Force Falcons

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry
said two players who will be court-martialed on charges of using
steroids have admitted they made a mistake.

Junior running back Matthew Ward, charged with wrongful use and
possession of the anabolic steroid methandrostenolone, will be
court-martialed Sept. 8. A date hasn't been set for junior
linebacker Overton Spence Jr. on charges of wrongful use,
distribution and possession of methandrostenolone.

Speaking at the Mountain West Conference meetings in Nevada this
week, DeBerry said both players came into his office this spring
and told him they made a mistake.

The cadets said they didn't know what they were taking when they
used pills that turned out to be methandrostenolone, DeBerry said.
He said he believes them.

"Based on what they said, they didn't know what they were
taking," DeBerry said. "They were told they were supplements and
they have never given me any reason to otherwise not believe them.
They have always been very true players and good gentlemen and done
everything we asked them to do in the program."

Both players have been suspended from the football team. If
convicted, Ward faces 10 years of confinement while Spence could
receive 25 years. Both face dismissal from the Air Force and
forfeiture of pay and allowances.

The school has begun random testing of cadets and some employees
for steroids in what experts say is an unusual step for any

Two other cadets also face steroids charges. An evidence hearing
for senior Eric M. Swartz is scheduled for Aug. 2. Commanders are
deciding whether a court-martial is in order for Jonathan S.

A fifth investigation is ongoing.

DeBerry said he doesn't think the steroid issue has tarnished
his program.

"It's like a lot of other coaches, you don't have a lot of
control over the situation and your athletes," he said. "They
made the decision to use. They could have said no when a guy told
them, 'I have some supplements that can help you."'

DeBerry also said he favored the random steroid testing policy
that began in June.

"Obviously, there must be a problem so we should very much do
that," he said. "Our responsibility is to the American taxpayer,
I believe that. They are paying for their education."