The hazing of an 18-year-old rookie basketball player at McGill University shows the school needs to reinforce its anti-hazing policies and double down on efforts to stop the practice, says Richard Pound, a former McGill chancellor who has championed efforts to clean up sports.
"It's a reputation issue for McGill. If you're Canada's leading university, you got to act like that," Mr. Pound said in an interview.
Mr. Pound, who has campaigned for years against performance-enhancing drugs in sports, says hazing is not unlike doping.
"What you really want to do is prevent doping. But part of the process is deterrence. You have to catch the cheaters," said Mr. Pound, a Montreal lawyer and founding president of the World Anti-Doping Agency.
McGill needs to drive home the message that hazing can be "deeply offensive" to some students and, like doping, will not be tolerated, he said.
"These are rules that you have to comply with if you're going to be part of organized sport," said Mr. Pound, the longest-serving member of the International Olympic Committee. Breaking the rules is "a serious breach of the rules of play."
McGill has conceded its varsity basketball team participated in a hazing ritual in 2015 and the institution would bring in a new anti-hazing policy within six months. The incident occurred despite the school's commitment to a "hazing-free environment" for students.
An internal inquiry into the initiation, released by McGill last week, admits the school's existing anti-hazing policy has weaknesses – among them, it doesn't spell out possible sanctions for students or explain hazing's longer-term impact on victims.
The former rookie basketball team member says he was forced into binge drinking and sexual games during a hazing ritual that led him to a "downward spiral" and to eventually leave the team. The student, who has asked not to be named, says he was ordered to drink a 40-ounce bottle of malt liquor in 20 minutes, consume four to six shots of hard liquor with a pillowcase over his head, and submit to having vodka poured down his throat while his head was held back by senior team members.
McGill's report turned up some inconsistencies about the night's events, and says it was difficult to determine the seriousness of the incident because participants were "significantly intoxicated" at the time. Still, some students did feel coerced into attending and faced "significant pressure" to engage in the night's activities, it found.
The initiation included members of both the men's and women's varsity basketball teams as well as some basketball alumni.
McGill did not carry out a comprehensive investigation until a year after the initiation occurred. The resulting report found that rookies were either blindfolded or had a pillowcase thrown over their heads before being driven by senior players to the site of the initiation. The night also included a game in which a female basketball player dressed up in a costume, such as a princess; she was then paired with a male student and the two "simulated sexual positions with a balloon held between them, until the balloon burst."
The report found there was excessive drinking "by most, if not all" in attendance.
Mr. Pound was chancellor at McGill when the Montreal university was rocked by a hazing scandal in 2005, in which a rookie football player was forced onto his hands and knees in his underwear and sexually prodded with a broomstick. Mr. Pound described the incident as a "crisis" for the university that drew questions from concerned alumni.
McGill cancelled the remainder of the football season and drew up a tough anti-hazing policy.
In the latest case, McGill put the men's and women's basketball teams on probation and they continued to play.