Two days after the University of Maine football team returned from Georgia with a second-round exit in the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs, the program received more bad news.
Stephen Cooper, a senior linebacker from Wareham, Mass., is under investigation and could face charges for possession of performance-enhancing anabolic steroids.
Cooper, 23, was riding in a vehicle with 21-year-old Patrick Kenney, a former member of the Black Bear football team, Nov. 1 when the two were stopped by Maine State Trooper Michael Johnson. State police spokesman Stephen McCausland said Johnson clocked the vehicle at 81 in a 65-mph zone near the Hampden rest area, traveling southbound on Interstate 95.
During the stop, Johnson received permission to search the vehicle. Inside a duffel bag belonging to Cooper, the state trooper found approximately 1,000 pills, which Cooper admitted were steroids.
UMaine head football coach Jack Cosgrove was unavailable for comment Wednesday, but interim athletics director Paul Bubb released a statement, saying the University only found out about the incident Monday.
“It goes without saying that UMaine and its athletic department take the use of illegal substances as a serious matter,” Bubb said. “There is no place for such activity in our community, and we will continue to be guided by the university’s stringent guidelines for dealing with such matters.”
As of yet, Cooper has not had charges brought against him, but the U.S. District Attorney’s office in Bangor has taken over the investigation and is reviewing the case.
Possession of a schedule Y drug, like anabolic steroids, carries a misdemeanor charge in the state of Maine. Steroids are illegal without proper prescription in the United States and also are banned by the NCAA.
McCausland indicated that Johnson informed UMaine Director of Public Safety Noel March about the incident shortly after it happened. It is not yet known why March declined to take action against the star linebacker or even if he investigated the matter further. It has been 41 days since Cooper was found in possession of the illegal substance.
University officials have admitted to being aware of the situation, but Cooper was allowed to compete throughout November and into the Division I-AA playoffs.
Bubb said that last month, 26 UMaine student-athletes, including members of the football team, were part of a random drug test done by the NCAA. It is not known whether Cooper was involved in the test.
Additionally, many Black Bears were tested for drugs following their game at Georgia Southern Saturday, but Cooper was not among those tested.
No official charges have been filed, nor has Cooper been referred to the UMaine Conduct Code Committee, according to University spokesman Joe Carr.
Cooper has been the Black Bears’ defensive leader for the last two seasons and was named Atlantic-10 Conference Defensive Player of the Year both years. Cooper is also a potential finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award, given to the top defensive player in Division I-AA.