The University of Houston has ordered an internal review of its policies and processes after new reporting detailed how a “punishment workout” left a women’s soccer player in a hospital for nearly five days.
The workout in question occurred back in February of 2018. In all, KPRC Channel 2 reported that a dozen members of the women’s soccer team were diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, better known as rhabdo, as a result of the workout.
University officials said the most recent reporting by Channel 2 was the first time it had heard specific details of the incident.
A player told Channel 2 that the entire team was punished after two teammates were accused of taking food designated for the football team. The university said that based on the findings of a joint internal review by two departments, "each investigative unit is directed to take swift action and make immediate recommendations to ensure the health and well-being of UH student-athletes."
A full statement from the University of Houston, which was published by Channel 2, stated:
“A media interview of a young woman purported to be a University of Houston student-athlete has brought to light specific details of an event involving the UH women’s soccer program that were previously unknown to the University. The University’s knowledge of this information has triggered a joint review by UH System Audit and UH Compliance of our compliance with processes and policies. Based on their respective findings, each investigative unit is directed to take swift action and make immediate recommendations to ensure the health and wellbeing of UH student-athletes. The University will reserve any further comment on this matter until the review is complete.”
Back in April, Channel 2 published emails obtained in a freedom of information request between head coach Diego Bocanegra and a student-athlete’s parent. In one email, Bocenegra wrote: "I want to reiterate that I have implemented several changes to help prevent this injury or any other similar injuries from happening in the future. For example, we no longer use physical punishment within our team. I removed it from our weight room manual.”
According to Channel 2’s reporting, which cited player interviews, the “physical punishment” involved a “grueling workout that included up-downs, planks and shuttle runs, according to the player, who said many on the team were having difficulty understanding what was going on."
Players were scared and Bocanegra uttered obscenities as many struggled. “Get up, Get the F up. This is your fault. Get up,' just, like, over and over again,” one player said, noting that she was too fearful to speak up. "No one was going to say anything. Everyone was so scared." The workout lasted for nearly an hour and the player said she felt “tortured almost” afterward.
Strength trainer Minor Bowens has since been fired over the incident.