This Iowa football rhabdomyolysis story is an enigma wrapped in a riddle

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Since I don’t know what precisely went on at the University of Iowa football team’s workout of Jan. 20, all I can do is guess why all those players entered University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics a few days later.

So much for new revelations.

Sorry, but I’m about as much an expert on the unrest in Egypt as to pinpointing what led to the outbreak of rhabdomyolysis with the Hawkeyes. Opinions put out by others seem to be conflicting, to say the least.

I’ve been told the first thing some people in the strength and training communities have said about the story is “What are those guys taking?”

Then I read the Sunday press release from Iowa in which Coach Kirk Ferentz that said “They trained extremely hard and ended up in the hospital, and there is no indication they did anything wrong.”

I read the quote from now-former Hawkeye player Christian Ballard last week when he was in Alabama preparing for the Senior Bowl. “I don’t know all the details,” Ballard said, “but I’m pretty sure a few of them went out on the weekend, had a good time, the first weekend back at school instead of recovering and resting like they should have been doing.”

Then I wondered if any other players at Iowa or anywhere else had ever partied a bit before their first winter workouts and did come up with a firm answer. Namely, yes.

I saw the blistering essay last Friday by Pat Forde, who questioned Ferentz’s leadership, compassion and accountability.

Then I thought back to the last 12 years living in Iowa and covering Hawkeyes football, and remembering hearing one or two (thousand) comments from people with firsthand experience who would have told you there isn’t a thing to question in any of those qualities when it came to the coach.

By the way, if you’re a Hawkeye fan outraged at the way certain national columnists have treated your football coach and program in the last several days, ask yourself what your reaction would have been had this story belonged to an Alabama or USC or Ohio State instead.

Former Hawkeye players like Pat Angerer, Matt Bowen and Tyler Sash have rushed to the defense of Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle, saying they went through his 100-squat January wake-up call and were better for it. “We all made it through it,” said Angerer.

Was this the Jan. 20 workout the same one as others in the past? To my knowledge, there hasn’t been a soul at that Iowa workout who has made a public statement about it. Whatever words that come from anyone at the university will be measured very carefully, understandably so.

Angerer credits Doyle for helping turn him from a marginal college recruit into an NFL player. He is one of a long line of ex-Hawkeyes in the pros who has publicly passed on praise and gratitude to Doyle, most of them having done so years before this bizarre story developed.

When Robert Gallery was in New York for the 2004 NFL draft, he paid for Ferentz, offensive line coach Reese Morgan and Doyle to be at the event with him.

Of course, you could flip things and say those who have made it to the pros would seem to be the most likely of all former players to support their college coaches.

See, you can talk around and around on this story, but you keep returning where you started. It’s maddening, because 13 players were in the hospital for something very serious. You want this to make some sense so it can be avoided in the future.

But it didn’t make sense at the time at McMinnville High School in Oregon last August when 13 football players were hospitalized for rhabdomyolysis after a strenuous preseason workout. It didn’t make sense at the University of South Carolina in 2007 when seven members of the University of South Carolina men’s and women’s swimming team were hospitalized for the same reason after a particularly demanding first practice of the season.

So given what we truly know about this story, are you sure you know what to think beyond what you may want to think? I'm not.

I guess I just can't see going on either a witch hunt or  blind faith. It's one of the darnedest stories we've ever had in my three decades at The Gazette.

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