The League

Doug Farrar
Writer

Doug Farrar

A FootballOutsiders.com staff writer

Goodell Blew It Again

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In the official press release announcing the StarCaps suspensions, the NFL noted that its Policy on Anabolic Steroids and Related Substances has always stated that whatever "supplements" players put in their bodies, the players do so at their own risk. The release also stated that Balanced Health Products, the manufacturer of StarCaps, was listed among the makers of prohibited dietary substances in two different memos distributed to all teams in December of 2006. There have since been questions as to whether specific warnings about the use of StarCaps should have been issued. The release stated that "the policy does not set forth an obligation to issue specific warnings about specific products and no testimony suggests that the NFL and NFLPA have ever contemplated imposing such a requirement"

And that's where I have a problem with the suspensions. Players are going to use diuretics, whether it's to help make weight limits or to mask this or that "supplement", and the NFL has an equal responsibility to educate, warn, and inform, as it does to exact discipline. If the NFL does not have a specific policy to issue specific warnings about specific products, and it's going to enforce a policy that can impact the careers and reputations of its players, that needs to be changed immediately. This needs to be transparent -- the NFL must be able to say without fear of contradiction that any substance which could lead to any disciplinary action has been pointed out as a banned substance.

In a December 2 conference call with the national football media, Adolpho Birch, the league's Vice President of Law & Labor Policy, said that a specific warning was sent out about StarCaps, contradicting the original statement. In answering a question about player weight clauses that may encourage the use of diuretics, Birch merely said that "The majority (of agreements) certainly spell out that things such as last-minute tactics like steam room use or things like the use of diuretics are not permitted in order to do that." Well, sure, they're not supposed to, but that's not the question. Are they, and if they are, why isn't the league stopping them from doing it?

Someone needs to get on the same page with someone else here. The NFL has two branches -- law and medicine -- that are seemingly not communicating. That there are now potentially successful suspension appeals by players, and questions as to what warnings were sent or not sent when and to whom, tells me that a more exacting policy must be enforced within the NFL's own headquarters when it comes to player education and protection regarding what they should and should not put in their bodies.

It is my opinion that Roger Goodell's NFL has been marked by uneven discipline and shifting standards, and I believe this is another example of a quick gavel coming down before everyone involved had their stuff together.

By Doug Farrar  |  December 4, 2008; 10:59 AM ET  | Category:  NFL , Steroids Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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The "notice to the team" has to go. If the NFL is going to be the enforcer, then it must notify each player individually--not depend on each team to pass on the notices. By so doing, the player's responsibility could be clearly established.

Posted by: Bill Rogers | December 4, 2008 11:33 PM

There are thousands of supplements out there. The FDA doesn't regulate them, but the NFL should? The NFL's policy is tough, but most alternatives, including the one suggested above, are unworkable.

Posted by: Dan | December 4, 2008 11:48 PM

With thousands of supplements on the market, how can the NFL expect to monitor all of them? It is the players' responsibility to monitor what they putting in their body. If they want to take supplements, they need to be sure those supplements are clean.

Posted by: Herndon | December 5, 2008 10:30 AM

In Saints RB Deuce McCallister's case, he says he paid to have StarCaps tested, and the determination was that the product contained no banned substances. Bumetanide was later added but the label did not reflect the addition. Is it the player's responsibility to anticipate such deceit?

Posted by: Quincy | December 5, 2008 9:58 PM

There is no contradiction in the NFL statements. The first press release you cite says there is no "obligation to issue specific warnings about specific products". Again, no "obligation". Adolpho Birch's comment that a warning was issued just means the NFL did something they were not obligated to do.

I agree that doing so is a good idea, but that is where the other poster's comments about "thousands" of supplements on the market come in. Should the NFL be obligated to issue a specific warning about each product? That's a little much.

I also agree with you in general that Goddell's punishments have been inconsistent and, at times, draconian. (Not your words, I know)

As for a supplement having an ingredient not marked on the label, that sounds like grounds for a law suite equal to at least the amount of money any player lost from a suspension due to that ingredient.

Posted by: carlos | December 6, 2008 8:49 AM

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