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Banned Substances and Rabbit-Holes; Levi Copelin Makes a Choice

Levi Copelin got suspended from the Missouri football team, but in doing so he committed himself to a much larger cause.

Choose wisely.
Choose wisely.
Jack Peglow

He wasn't exactly sure how he got here, but there was no turning back now. With a deep breath, Levi Copelin opened the thick double doors and entered the room. It was small and seedy, with two leather armchairs placed facing each other in the middle of the space. Through a window on the far wall, he could see a flash of lightning extending its spindly fingers across the sky. Silhouetted in the window with his back to Copelin stood a tall man with a shaved head. At the sound of Levi's footsteps the man turned around, revealing himself to be former UCLA basketball star and current star plaintiff Ed O'Bannon. With a smile, O'Bannon greeted the Missouri receiver. "At last. Welcome, Levi. As you no doubt have guessed, I am Ed O'Bannon"

"It's an honor to meet you." Copelin said, extending his hand to O'Bannon. The two shook, then Ed motioned to the chair nearest to the door.

"No, the honor is mine. Please, come. Sit." He allowed Copelin to find a comfortable sitting position, then continued. "I imagine that right now, you're feeling a bit like Alice: tumbling down the rabbit-hole."

"You could say that."

"I can see it in your eyes. You have the look of a player who accepts what he sees because he is expecting to wake up." O'Bannon observed. "Ironically, this is not far from the truth." He moved towards the vacant seat, stopping beside it to pose a question. "Do you believe in amateurism, Levi?"


"Why not?"

"Because I don't like the idea that I'm not in control of my likeness." Hearing this, O'Bannon smiled and took a seat.

"I know exactly what you mean." He crossed his legs and leaned into the chair's plush backrest. "Let me tell you why you're here." Copelin gulped as O'Bannon moved the discussion forward. "You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire collegiate career. That there's something wrong with the system. You don't know what it is, but it's there. Like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me." O'Bannon paused for a moment, letting his words take their effect. Once the job was done, he asked the question. "Do you know what I'm talking about?" Without missing a beat, Copelin answered.

"The NCAA."

"Do you want to know what it is?" O'Bannon asked. Then – before Copelin could respond – he answered. "The NCAA is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now – in this very room – you can see it when you look out on your campus, or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to class, when you go to church, when you receive your stipend. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth." Puzzled, Copelin interjected.

"What truth?" O'Bannon leaned forward to accentuate the gravity of his response.

"That you are a slave, Levi. Like every other athlete, you were signed into bondage. Signed into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison for your mind." He sat back again and sighed. "Unfortunately, no one can be told what the NCAA is." With a quick movement, O'Bannon produced two pills from inside his jacket and extended them to Copelin. "You have to see it for yourself."


"This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back." O'Bannon explained. "You take the legal substance: the story ends, you wake up in your dorm and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the banned substance: you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes." Copelin weighed his options for a moment, then reached for the banned substance. Before he touched the pill, O'Bannon game him a final warning. "Remember, all I'm offering is the truth. Nothing more."

Copelin pondered his future one last time, then remained on his original course. He knew his actions would bring about a hefty suspension, but there were more pressing issues at hand. He hoped that his teammates would forgive him once they learned about the reasoning behind his decision.

After the receiver had ingested the banned substance, O'Bannon grinned and made his way to the exit.

"Follow me."