The Hamilton Tiger-Cats will be without star receiver/kick-returner Brandon Banks for their crucial rematch Friday night with the Ottawa RedBlacks.
Banks was suspended for two games Wednesday for violating the CFL's drug policy. According to the league, Banks tested positive for methylenedioxyamphetamine, a psychedelic hallucinogenic drug also known as MDA that's closely related to ecstasy.
"I would like to apologize to my coaches, teammates, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats organization, and our great and loyal fans for putting myself in this situation," Banks said in a statement. "It's my responsibility to know what's on the banned substance list and there is no excuse for my violation of the rules.
"My mistake has not only hurt my team, but my family and friends, and for that I am extremely sorry. I will work very hard over the next two weeks to prepare myself both mentally and physically to return to the field and contribute to bringing a Grey Cup championship back to the city of Hamilton."
Kent Austin, Hamilton's head coach and vice-president of football operations, said Banks addressed the matter with his teammates. Austin reiterated the franchise's support for him.
"To say I'm not disappointed is probably not the truth," Austin told reporters in Hamilton. "But I know he's been disappointed in me too, so that's the way relationships are.
"Brandon knows that I love him and we're supportive. He made a mistake. We need to get better, make better decisions in the future. It impacts him … personally, it impacts the football team and it impacts everybody around him. You can say no as easily as you can say yes and we trust that we'll be better decision-makers in the future."
The loss of Banks is big for Hamilton (6-9), which trails first-place Ottawa (7-7-1) in the East Division standings. As a result of the suspension, Banks will also miss the Ticats' home game versus Edmonton (8-7) on Oct. 28.
"We fully support the drug-testing policy and Brandon has taken full ownership," Austin said. "We'll continue to keep him involved and he'll serve his suspension and rightfully so.
"Then he'll come back, hopefully as a better human being, better person, better teammate, better football player as a result."
Hamilton can clinch a playoff berth – and home field for the East semi-final – with a win Friday. The Ticats would also garner second in the conference with a tie and losses this week by both Toronto and Montreal.
Ottawa can also clinch first in the East and home field for the division final with a win over Hamilton.
Banks will be eligible to return to Hamilton's lineup Nov. 5 for its regular-season finale against Montreal at Tim Hortons Field. Austin said veteran Kendial Lawrence will come off the practice roster to returns kicks in Banks's absence.
"We're confident in Kendial ... he's a proven player, a proven returner and so we feel like we're going to be okay."
The 5-foot-7, 157-pound Banks has 29 catches for 355 yards and four TDs this season. He has 59 punt returns for 569 yards and a touchdown and has also returned two missed field goals for touchdowns.
Banks was the CFL's top special-teams player last year after returning four punts for TDs, one short of the single-season record.
Under the CFL and CFL Players' Association policy, a suspended player can't participate in games but the club decides if he can participate in other team activities such as practices and meetings.
Banks is the third player suspended this season for a positive drug test.
Defensive tackle Quinn Smith of the Calgary Stampeders was slapped with a three-game ban after testing positive for the anabolic steroid methandienone. It marked the second time Smith had tested positive in his football career.
Bruce Johnson, a defensive back with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, received a two-game suspension for after also testing positive for methylenedioxyamphetamine.