The League

Mark Maske
Staff Writer

Mark Maske

Writes the NFL News Feed blog

No Clear-Cut Answer

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It's an interesting case with no clear-cut right and wrong.

Most of us here on the outside looking in would sympathize to some degree, I would guess, with players who say they took a weight-loss product not knowing it contained a diuretic that's on the NFL's list of banned substances, if indeed that's true--and especially if it's true that the banned diuretic was not listed on the weight-loss product's label, as the players and their representatives say. We would sympathize even further if it's also true that the independent administrator of the NFL's steroid-testing program knew previously that the weight-loss product contained the banned substance and didn't warn players about that, for fear that other players would use that information as a defense in unrelated cases in which they'd tested positive.

But in court, cases aren't decided on such sympathies.

They're decided on the law.

The NFL makes the points that its steroid-testing program is collectively bargained with the players, that the policy holds players responsible for any banned substances they ingest in supplements even unknowingly, and that it contains no requirement for its administrator to issue such warnings to players about particular products. In addition, the NFL maintains that the administrator did, in fact, notify teams and the players' union that the maker of the weight-loss product in question had been placed on the league's list of banned supplement-producers.

In today's sports world, we don't want steroid policies that are full of loopholes, do we? You test positive and you're suspended. No excuses. Isn't that how we want it?

On the other hand, do we want to see athletes punished if they really weren't trying to cheat? Do we want to see athletes suspended for trying to lose weight, if that really was what was going on here?

That's why figuring out what is the "right" outcome in all of this is so tricky.

Six players were suspended by the NFL on Tuesday for four games each without pay for the positive tests. Five of them continue to challenge the suspensions. The union filed a lawsuit in federal court in Minneapolis today on behalf of all five. Two of the five, Vikings defensive tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams, were granted a temporary restraining order Wednesday by a judge in a separate court challenge. The NFL vowed to try to overturn that order.

I'm not a lawyer. I can only go by what legal experts tell me about the case. My sense of it is that the players still face an uphill climb in trying to get the suspensions overturned permanently. But they do seem to have a compelling case. The judge who issued the temporary restraining order to the Vikings players Wednesday called it one of the most difficult cases he'd had in 23 years.

All we can do now, really, is wait to see how it plays out.

By Mark Maske  |  December 4, 2008; 2:54 PM ET  | Category:  Steroids Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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This article dances around a valid point of discussing whether these players "knowingly" or "negligently" ingesting a banned substance. Obviously, if the players' knowingly ingested the substance than the punishment should be greater. If the players claims are accurate, they should not be punished as severely. But they should be punished all the same because no one should argue that players/trainers/coaches should be doing their due diligence before using any supplement.

Posted by: Johnny K. | December 5, 2008 9:18 AM

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