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NCAA reportedly reinstates a 5-star LSU DB after previously denying appeal of his unusual drug suspension

Kristian Fulton missed the 2017 season because of an NCAA drug suspension that isn’t even for using drugs. He’d been trying to get his punishment reduced.

NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Louisiana State vs Louisville Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

LSU cornerback Kristian Fulton was a five-star recruit in the class of 2016, a consensus top-25 prospect. By now, he was supposed to be a lockdown part of the Tigers’ secondary.

He’s not. Fulton played briefly as a freshman in 2016, but he hasn’t seen game action since. However Fulton will now get see the field for the first time as an LSU Tiger, after the NCAA reinstated him on Aug. 23.

He had been serving one of the harsher, more unusual suspensions the NCAA can give out. Fulton recently appealed that suspension in early August, but he reportedly didn’t get it overturned:

In 2017, Fulton tried to cheat an NCAA drug test. He got caught.

In February of that year, Fulton took an NCAA-mandated test for performance-enhancing drugs. What happened then is not in dispute: Fulton admits he tried to cheat.

Sports Illustrated reported in the most detail yet on Fulton’s case in June 2018:

Documents detail the event on Feb. 2, 2017 at LSU’s Broussard Hall. The test administer, Jason Shoemake, noticed Fulton pouring the contents of a small bottle into the beaker the player was expected to fill with his own sample. When approached, Fulton poured the contents of the beaker into a urinal and began to fill the beaker with his own urine sample.

Fulton then passed the drug test without cheating. But the NCAA suspended him for two years, a tougher penalty than he’d have gotten for a failed test.

Fulton’s father, Keith, told the magazine his son thought the test was also for marijuana, and that he’d smoked two days beforehand. Weed is on the NCAA’s banned-substances list, and players are subject to tests for it. They are not usually hard to beat, but this wasn’t that.

If a player “attempts to alter the integrity” of a drug test, he gets suspended for two years from the date of the act. He’s also charged with two seasons of competition, meaning that if nothing changes, Fulton can’t play for LSU again until he’s a senior by eligibility:

A student-athlete who is involved in a case of clearly observed tampering with an NCAA drug-test sample, as documented by a drug-testing crew member, shall be charged with the loss of a minimum of two seasons of competition in all sports and shall remain ineligible for all regular-season and postseason competition during the time period ending two calendar years (730 days) from the date of the tampering.

The NCAA’s penalty for an actual positive PED test is one year.

Fulton didn’t test positive for PEDs, of course, but his suspension that looked until now to be lasting for two seasons illustrates a point: The NCAA is harder on players who cheat tests than players who use PEDs.

That’s not out of line with how colleges handle non-drug test cheating. Many will just expel any student whom they find cheated in class. If a player doesn’t cheat but merely fails to get the grades to stay eligible, he’s rarely kicked out. He just has to get his grades up.

Fulton had been pressing the NCAA to end his suspension.

He was slated to have an appeal hearing on Aug. 9:

The SI report, drawing on interviews and documents, said Fulton’s lawyer argued for a shortened suspension “on three fronts: (1) the absence of due process in the drug-testing appeals structure, (2) the lack of drug-testing education given to Fulton, and (3) presenting new evidence that calls into question the credibility of the drug-testing procedure.”

Fulton also appealed his suspension in 2017, but the NCAA denied it then, too. The NCAA isn’t an actual court, and normally, what qualifies as “due process” in the NCAA is whatever the NCAA decides is due process. The NCAA can make exceptions to its rules or grant waivers whenever it wants, but there was no obvious path to Fulton’s suspension getting overturned.

Fulton is a serious talent. He’ll now give LSU a boost in 2018.

How Fulton will play after a whole season without game action was always impossible to know. But he was an absolute top-of-the-line recruit not long ago, and nothing’s stopped him from practicing and working out for the last year. Fulton will at least get a week of practice in, as LSU opens with Miami in Arlington, Texas on Sunday, Sept. 2.

At the end of the day, this is great news for Fulton, and a better late than never reinstatement by the NCAA.