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League admits inconsistent treatment of StarCaps users

In the litigation filed by Vikings defensive tackles Pat and Kevin Williams against the NFL, it has long been alleged that the NFL did not suspend other players who had tested positive for Bumetanide due to taking StarCaps, an over-the-counter weight loss supplement that had been spiked with the banned substance.

And though there had been prior indications that the allegation of disparate treatment was correct, the man responsible for implementing and overseeing the league’s steroids policy admitted while testifying on Tuesday that, indeed, suspension were not imposed on multiple players.  Specifically, Dr. John Lombardo testified that more than six players who tested positive for diuretics from 2005 to 2007 were not punished, per the Associated Press.

Lombardo really had no choice.  Last month, Judge Gary Larson acknowledged these facts in a 44-page written ruling regarding various claims in the case, a copy of which we obtained at the time.  “The NFL and Dr. Lombardo knew, in 2006, that at least some StarCaps capsules contained Bumetanide,” Judge Larson wrote.  “Indeed, when several players tested positive for Bumetanide after taking StarCaps in 2006, Dr. Lombardo and the NFL asked Aegis Sciences Corporation, an independent laboratory, to analyze StarCaps.  These players were placed on reasonable cause testing rather than suspended four games.”

So others, for whatever reason, were not suspended.  From the standpoint of basic fairness, that’s a big deal.

But it gets even better — or, from the league’s perspective, worse.  Judge Larson also has acknowledged that, as consistently alleged by the players, the NFL knew that StarCaps had been spiked with Bumetanide but ultimately told no one that StarCaps secretly contained a prescription medication that has serious potential side effects, like heat stroke, brain swelling, and cardiac arrest.

“Mr. Crouch, a toxicologist at Aegis, found Bumetanide in StarCaps and informed [Adolpho] Birch and Dr. Lombardo of the results,” Judge Larson wrote.  “In November 2006, Mr. Crouch volunteered to notify the FDA that StarCaps contained Bumetanide.  Dr. Lombardo agreed that the FDA should be notified.  Birch, however, claimed responsibility for warning the FDA.  Birch never did so.”

Ouch.

What of the vague assertion that is made from time to time that the NFL told the NFLPA about StarCaps?  Here’s what Judge Larson found, based on the undisputed facts presented to him by the parties.

“Birch did not inform the NFLPA that StarCaps contained Bumetanide, but did inform it that players were prohibited from providing endorsements for Balanced Health Products, the distributor of StarCaps,” Judge Larson wrote.  “Birch also sent a memorandum to each team’s president, general  manager, and head athletic train stating that players were not to endorse Balanced Health Products.”  But Judge Larson also pointed out that, in past situations, the league had sent specific notices to players “alerting them of products posing health risks to players.”

So what was the NFL’s objective in this case?  As we’ve previously heard it, the league feared that any and all players who had tested positive for Bumetanide would blame the outcome on StarCaps, even if they hadn’t taken StarCaps.  Given, however, that the league did not suspend at least six such players, that explanation no longer makes sense to us.

Bottom line?  In the legal system, the facts of a case drive the manner in which the law is applied.  Here, the reality that other players were not suspended coupled with the failure of the league to tell anyone that StarCaps contained a substance that presented a potential risk to the health and life of players has fueled the litigation through state and federal courts, and it makes us convinced that, in the end, Judge Larson will find a way to conclude that, under Minnesota law, the suspensions of Pat and Kevin Williams must be set aside.

Meanwhile, we suspect that, once the dust settles on the litigation, heads will roll within the corridors of the 15th, 16th, and 17th floors of 280 Park Avenue.  Commissioner Roger Goodell ultimately is a man of good will and common sense, and there surely will be accountability for the manner in which this matter was handled, unless there’s a darn good explanation.

A darn good explanation that has yet to become apparent.
 

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42 Responses to “League admits inconsistent treatment of StarCaps users”
  1. Fire Ted says: Mar 10, 2010 8:25 AM

    I hate lawyers. The “facts of the case” rarely determine the outcome, especially in civil court. The more appropriate description would be “the warped interepretation of the law” combined with luck from technicality determine the outcome. Rules are rules and rule #1 in this case should be know what the hell you are ingesting, especially when you are doing so to cheat.

  2. Insomniac says: Mar 10, 2010 8:31 AM

    The league has really messed up. I can’t see any logical reason for their actions. Wouldn’t the most logical thing have been to:
    1. Notify the player(s) of their suspension and the cause
    2. Somehow they were put on the trail of StarCaps (by player appeals)?
    3. After completion of testing, notify all players that the supplement is tainted
    Seems pretty simple. Their policy clearly states that players are responsible for what they take and the NFL provides a list of approved supplements. The only way the players could be in the clear is if a supplement that the NFL approved was tainted. Otherwise, anything they else take could put them at risk.

  3. Bun McSticky says: Mar 10, 2010 8:32 AM

    The NFL is so damn stubborn….they shouldn’t have taken this so far. But their hubris got in the way. The Williams Wall is right in pushing this and now you can see why.

  4. benniehifive says: Mar 10, 2010 8:34 AM

    I still don’t understand how the league can be pushing this issue…if they didn’t tell anybody that this pill contained a banned substance, and it didn’t say so on the labeling, how was anybody suppossed to know it wasn’t ok to take it? another great example of our legal system at work…I’m sure there isn’t any other cases with more importance that minnesota courts could be working out at the moment.

  5. Brownie says: Mar 10, 2010 8:36 AM

    Fire Ted – How do you know they were ingesting it to cheat? Diet pills are not considered cheating. They weren’t aware that the masking agent was in the particular diet pill because they were never informed by the league, per the article. Pat and Kevin needed to lose to make weight for the team. They weren’t taking steroids, therefore they weren’t masking anything. That’s what it comes down to. Now, if they’re ever caught again taking StarCaps (now that the league has informed the players) or any other masking agent, then they should for sure be suspended. But the league can’t sunspend some of the players, and not all of them. In my opinion, the case is over. The Williams Wall wins!

  6. Scotty Fargo says: Mar 10, 2010 8:38 AM

    Oh man you Packer fans sure are small people with small minds.
    This story absolutely shows that the NFL’s crusade against the Williamses was simply about not wanting to back down in the face of their extreme failure. They have royally screwed up here.
    “Rules are rules” except when they are selectively applied, cheesebreath.

  7. vikings rule says: Mar 10, 2010 8:38 AM

    AMEN BROTHER!!! Regardless of the fact that i am a staunch Vikings fan this case has been pure bullshit from the beginning. The high & mighty NFL doesn’t give a damn about players health as is proven by their failure to notify them about the dangers of using the product. All they give a rip about is looking good to the public by handing down suspension for so called “drug violations” I’m proud of Pat & Keven for standing up against the NFL giant and knocking them on their ass. Now if they could just win a Superbowl….yea right , like that’s ever going to happen

  8. PurpleJeebus says: Mar 10, 2010 8:39 AM

    do Packer fines do anything other than whine?

  9. CLosISgood says: Mar 10, 2010 8:40 AM

    Vikings always cheat.

  10. Big BrEasy says: Mar 10, 2010 8:41 AM

    Pervy Harvin says:
    March 9, 2010 8:35 PM
    Ross’sSweetMinus says: Suggestion the next time you go to a Queens game. Before the game starts wait around the player parking lot for your precious Farve when he shows up, show him (as you say your over sized dong). Maybe the hillbilly will get turned on, by the way you parade it around. You never know he could give you a hand job.
    Oh another thing take chickenfoot with you, he seems like the kind of Queen that would get off on it as well.
    ————————————————–
    Dude….it is very obvious that dong talk excites you. How..ah..gay of you!
    Don’t hate chicken or I because we own you fools…jealousy …..
    ===================================
    Pervy Pervy Pervy……I thought we went over this. By getting a beat down you have no right to own any one. Last I check I, whodaywhodat, owns your ass(as well as captain fantastik owns you)! But if you ever experience a true champion you start to let chumps like you get away with their blasphemy. Then you realize, “hey, I am the champion, and I have all the bragging rights.” So guess what, SUCK IT you wanna be “MMA” trainer.
    Bet you think Matt Leinart is sexy dont you??

  11. kotapug says: Mar 10, 2010 8:42 AM

    Not weird the first person to post on here is a ass clown pack fan . Go buy some drugs from a member of your pack they will calm your jealous ass down. Must suck for you to have no other things to do but worry about the vikes . So who is more inbreed the pack fans ,Hawk or Matthews ?

  12. chickenragnar says: Mar 10, 2010 8:42 AM

    Typical Packer fan idiot, in Fire Ted.
    If this were any other team but the Vikings, Packer fans wouldn’t care, or, would be supporting them.
    It looks to me that you didn’t even read the post. You saw Starcaps and went into full ripping mode.
    Jagoff!

  13. CdnMike says: Mar 10, 2010 8:47 AM

    Fire Ted,
    That is spoken like a true uninformed, uneducated jackass. Did you even read the article above?
    The fact that the NFL chose, aribtrarily it appears, which players to not suspend and also chose not to disclose the information they knew to the players is negligent at best and malicious at worst.
    What if one of these guys went the way of Corey Stringer because they were unknowingly taking Bumetanide? What would be the league’s position then?

  14. Champs says: Mar 10, 2010 8:50 AM

    But if the NFL botches their case this badly, then the court may not bother to rule on its singular entity status. That gives the league some wiggle room later.

  15. Nevisyakker says: Mar 10, 2010 8:54 AM

    Not much of this is new to those of us who have been following this case from the beginning. But to see it all clearly stated in this piece makes me wonder how anyone, no matter how much childish hatred you may have for a rival NFL team, fail to find the NFL culpable?
    When all is said and done the question isn’t going to be if Kevin & Pat Williams will be suspended (they won’t be) but how much their lawyers are going to go after in civil action against the NFL.
    Only the pure arrogance of the NFL, including Goodell to whom you give serious credit, could have allowed them to pursue this in court. They should have settled the matter quietly, dealt with their in house problems, informed the players association and the FDA, and given the players involved a clear warning with explanation—period.

  16. CheeseGrater says: Mar 10, 2010 8:55 AM

    All players involved have said consistently that they never knew Starcaps contained a banned substance, only that they couldn’t endorse the product, now the league admits that as well. Case closed.

  17. Felcus says: Mar 10, 2010 9:01 AM

    @Fire Ted
    They didn’t know the banned substance Bumetanide was in StarCaps, so how are they cheaters? Do those fat ass linemen really look like they took steroids are were trying to mask them? If anything, the league is trying to f*ck over the players by luck from a technicality.
    The previous CBA clearly wasn’t tight enough, and the NFL should give up before they dig themselves in too deep.
    And BTW, the “facts of a case” determine how to warp the interpretation of the law.

  18. Don says: Mar 10, 2010 9:05 AM

    So, wasn’t Calvin Pace indeed suspended for the same thing? Anybody else? What will be the ramifications knowing what we know now if these two get off? The problems for the NFL are only beginning and rightfully so.

  19. JoeyJoeJoeJr.Shabadoooo says: Mar 10, 2010 9:17 AM

    Fire Ted
    rules are rules?
    tell that to nick barnett or jon jolly…do i need to remind you of their assault charges?
    stupid packer fans

  20. SoCalSean says: Mar 10, 2010 9:39 AM

    @JoeyJoeJoeJr.Shabadoooo
    Right on! I always forget about Jolly.. He’s the easiest comeback for uneducated Packer fans.

  21. Thorpie says: Mar 10, 2010 9:51 AM

    Sorry NFL, you’re losing this battle.
    You can try and use the “players are responsible for what they put in their bodies” argument, but this case is clearly not that black and white. Nobody knew the banned substance was in the product. The label was not accurate. Period. If coca cola secretly put a banned substance in every can, should a player get suspended for drinking a coke? Should the players get their sodas tested before drinking? Of course not, that would be rediculous…just like this case. The ONLY people at fault here are the makers of Star Caps and the NFL.

  22. NebVikesFan says: Mar 10, 2010 10:02 AM

    So the NFL claims they did not want to tell the players this product contained a banned substance because then they could use StarCaps as an excuse for having the banned substance in their system.
    However since they then would have been notified they would have no longer been able to use starcaps as an excuse as they would have knowingly taken a banned substance. So really that explanation makes no sense at all.

  23. DaVikes says: Mar 10, 2010 10:06 AM

    It’s rare to see an organization drag itself through the mud the way the NFL is doing. And kind of fun.

  24. Ytsejamer1 says: Mar 10, 2010 10:06 AM

    I’m tired of this stupid story…who gives a donkey nut about this starcaps stuff. Make the rule known and all players now abide by it. Don’t they have bigger fish to fry…ie, getting something done with the players association? That should have their full attention.
    Enough of this two year old nonsense already…if someone screwed up and failed to say something…whatever. Move on…

  25. chubbs says: Mar 10, 2010 10:14 AM

    This fact has been known for a year now. It was in both the federal opinions almost verbatim. There really is no new information here.

  26. Bob Nelson says: Mar 10, 2010 10:22 AM

    This is precisely why the NFL did not blow the whistle on Star Caps.
    1) Every steroid user/masker could claim that they took Star Caps.
    2) Telling the FDA would make this product known to every steroid user. The FDA is so slow that steroids could be used by anyone that chose to for the 2 or 3 years it would take for the FDA to get around to taking action.
    3) Why would anyone trust the Federal Government to do anything right and not screw it up? (look at their track record!)
    4) Given that other members of the viking defense were using steroids like Ray Edwards and Erin Henderson and that there was a lot of suspicious activity from that problem franchise the suspensions were very necessary.
    5) These players have never proven that they were taking Star Caps!! No one really knows how they finally got caught with the dangerous steroid masking agent.
    6) Who really believes they were doing this for water loss during the heat of training camp. Especially on a team that killed a player in training camp.
    7) This is why the rulebreakers shose to have the case decided by some nitpicking judge examining the nuances of the law instead of a common sense jury.
    The judiciary is just another failed branch of the government.

  27. purpleguy says: Mar 10, 2010 10:29 AM

    If Goodell was such a stand-up, law and order, consistent application of the rules guy, then why is this case still going on? He’s had plenty of time to correct this.
    The interesting isssue at trial now is the NFL as a partial employer factor to justify application of state law. Indicia of employment under MN law, like most states, are an employer setting work rules, dictating work time, determining compensation, setting rules for attire, imposing discipline, supplying tools/equipment for the job, and establishing benefits, among others. All the players have to prove is some NFL involvement in dictating those factors, which isn’t tough. The NFL sets work times/requirements/game times/schedule, determines minimum comp guidelines, restricts practice procedures, dictates the game day uniforms (penalizing players for not pulling up their socks for instance), obviously imposes discipline through Goodell, supplies game day equipment, dictates media availability, and establishes benefit criteria, among a whole bunch of other stuff. In the face of that, how in sam hell does the NFL argue with a straight face that they are not at least partial employers? Even worse, they argue in the American Needle case that the NFL and it’s teams are a single business unit. Someone above was right, this is arrogance, because it sure ain’t logical.

  28. Nevisyakker says: Mar 10, 2010 10:54 AM

    Say Bob Nelson, the nurse says she is ready to give you your weekly sponge bath. Enjoy.
    In the mean time, please keep your ridiculous, goofy, nonsensical, so generated by a hate-bias that they have no basis in reality, comments to yourself.

  29. FreeAgentPro says: Mar 10, 2010 10:54 AM

    We sure can tell that Florio know whose da Boss! He relentlessly attacks players for their alleged transgressions, but when Park Ave. is involved in shady behavior that threatens the health and careers of NFL players, he treads ever so lightly. Just another example of the price of selling out to the NBC/NFL bureaucracy.

  30. GirthyOne says: Mar 10, 2010 11:01 AM

    I am a Packer fan and have always believed that the case was B.S. Please don’t lump us all together.
    Despite having a great name, Fire Ted appears as though he either didn’t read/understand the info or he just doesn’t care because he wants the Vikings to lose.
    Shameless actions here by some of the league’s people. Not suspending other guys, not informing them of the danger, etc. They will probably not face a civil suit coming from this, but knowingly (ie willfully) not informing “employees” and leaving them at risk, it certainly does not bode well for the league’s credibility.

  31. chubbs says: Mar 10, 2010 11:08 AM

    Amen, purpleguy. The different treatment of players is no longer an issue in this case, as it has been dismissed in arbitration and the arbitration decision was upheld by the federal courts. The issue is whether the NFL qualifies as an employer under the statute, which I agree that it should.

  32. Paracelsus says: Mar 10, 2010 11:15 AM

    As a retiree who used to develop cases for Federal attorneys, I am always interested in these cases. Thank you for the analysis and reporting. It is a good study for people not engaged in this work daily to understand how things are not simple and frankly, cannot be simple when they involve complex issues and lots and lots of people. Good job.

  33. chubbs says: Mar 10, 2010 11:18 AM

    This theory that people would claim they took StarCaps to get out of positive test if the NFL told people makes no sense. The policy is that of strict liability. Once players were told StarCaps contains a banned substance, they no longer could use the excuse. It basically would be saying, “We know StarCaps contains a banned substance, now you know it contains a banned substance, and now you can’t claim an excuse that you didn’t know and nobody told you.” Instead, not telling players actually had the feared effect and let the Williams attempt to excuse themselves of liability.
    Also, Bob Nelson, you’re an idiot. The players claimed they were taking StarCaps before they knew that players had been excused in the past. They did it for weight loss to qualify for some monster weight bonuses.

  34. Satanic Hell Creature says: Mar 10, 2010 11:32 AM

    Bob Nelson says:
    March 10, 2010 10:22 AM
    This is precisely why the NFL did not blow the whistle on Star Caps.
    1) Every steroid user/masker could claim that they took Star Caps.
    2) Telling the FDA would make this product known to every steroid user. The FDA is so slow that steroids could be used by anyone that chose to for the 2 or 3 years it would take for the FDA to get around to taking action.
    3) Why would anyone trust the Federal Government to do anything right and not screw it up? (look at their track record!)
    4) Given that other members of the viking defense were using steroids like Ray Edwards and Erin Henderson and that there was a lot of suspicious activity from that problem franchise the suspensions were very necessary.
    5) These players have never proven that they were taking Star Caps!! No one really knows how they finally got caught with the dangerous steroid masking agent.
    6) Who really believes they were doing this for water loss during the heat of training camp. Especially on a team that killed a player in training camp.
    7) This is why the rulebreakers shose to have the case decided by some nitpicking judge examining the nuances of the law instead of a common sense jury.
    The judiciary is just another failed branch of the government.
    ————————————————–
    1. If the NFL knew about Bumetanide was in Star Caps at least a year in advance, they could have easily let it be known immediately and not pass down any punishment until the next season. Being a diuretic, I’m sure it leaves the system fairly quickly after one stops taking it. So, this is a very weak excuse.
    2. Bumetanide is not a controlled substance, so the FDA would only be able to tell the company it must be included on the label.
    4. If you think that any franchise in the league doesn’t have a lot of performance enhancing drug users, you’re truly dumber than everybody here really thinks.
    5. How do you know they have never proved they were taking Star Caps? Show me where this has ever been written, other than by whiny, bitchy Packer fans like yourself.
    6. They weren’t taking Star Caps for water loss, they were taking it for weight loss. You know how you’re always calling them fat, well those are the players that always have to cut weight or face fines. Star Caps is promoted as a diet supplement not a diuretic. If it were promoted as a diuretic everybody would have known it had a league banned substance.
    7. Yeah, we wouldn’t want a judge that follows the letter of the law deciding a case, let’s get jurors that typically judge by emotion decide the case. Real smart there, but we wouldn’t expect anything more from you. This is why if you know you’re innocent and have enough evidence to prove it, always choose a bench trial vs jury.
    Try posting something of substance someday, not just blind hatred for a sports team.

  35. Bob Nelson is a Whiney Titty Baby says: Mar 10, 2010 1:11 PM

    Earth to Bob, Earth to Bob, your meds are ready.
    Really, get your anger under control. I fully expect to read that some crazy old man has just driven his car into the longboat at Winter Park.

  36. TorVikeFan says: Mar 10, 2010 1:17 PM

    Satanic Hell Creature said to Bob Nelson: …Try posting something of substance someday, not just blind hatred for a sports team.
    Right on, Satanic Hell Creature!

  37. Bob Nelson says: Mar 10, 2010 1:45 PM

    Thank you “Satanic Hell Creature” for showing why my points are valid and your own thinking is seriously flawed.
    In your rebuttal #1 you suggest no punishment for the steroid masking agent for one year. You then permit every steroid user an out for using steroids for that year. You just confirmed my points #1 and #2 why the NFL should not have taken any action.
    your rebuttal #2; No one claimed it was a controlled substance. Star Caps never received FDA approval. Star Caps was never on the NFL players approved supplement list. The NFL clearly warned all players that use of a nonapproved supplement was AT THEIR OWN RISK.
    Your rebuttal #4. Unlike the vikings many teams have gone for over a decade without having a steroid user. The multiple number of viking defensive players caught using steroids recently is far above the NFL norm. Your lame “everybody does it so it’s okay” whine doesn’t cut it. Thus you demonstrate how important my point # 4 is.
    Your rebuttal #5 is a logical absurdity. Since these rulebreakers are blaming Star Caps after the fact, they ought to have some record of their purchase or other means of showing they actually took the Star Caps. You can’t prove a negative.
    If their testimony about taking Star Caps is unreliable then the court can consider their whole testimony unreliable.
    #6 Thanks again for making my original point. That Williams’ fabrication does not make sense.
    Your #7 again proves the logic of my original point 7. If viking players were liked in Minnesota they would chose a Jury Trial.
    Instead because viking players do not have fan support in Minnesota, they are looking for any inconsistancy in the law the Judge may find.
    All the proven facts go against these rule breakers.
    EVEN IF YOU BELIEVE THE PLAYERS, They admit they were cheating on their weight so they could cheat the contract with their employer to obtain money they were not entitled to receive. You have to believe they cheated with a product not approved by the NFL, and that they are too stupid to be held responsible for what they eat!!
    Nobody believes these Williams viklings!!

  38. Other Bears says: Mar 10, 2010 2:27 PM

    The solution is simple. They keep arguing and appealing and fighting until the Williams wall retires. Then they can accept their suspensions.
    Done!

  39. Bob Nelson is a Whiney Titty Baby says: Mar 10, 2010 2:44 PM

    Hey Bob,
    Glenn Beck called; he wants to devote an entire hour to you.

  40. Tim says: Mar 10, 2010 7:30 PM

    Bob Nelson,
    The important question here is what, exactly, do the rulebreakers shose have to do with this?
    They’re completely innocent and I, for one, would appreciate if you would leave them out of this.

  41. packers4life says: Mar 10, 2010 9:27 PM

    “do Packer fines do anything other than whine?”
    Pot calling the kettle black. Half of the idiots in the Viking ‘fanbase’ are still crying about losing to New Orleans.
    “tell that to nick barnett or jon jolly…do i need to remind you of their assault charges?”
    Jolly wasn’t arrested on assault charges, dillhole.

  42. Anarcho Purplism says: Mar 11, 2010 4:55 PM

    PFT Nation (as well as the 4letter word)….needs to completely ignore cheese-trolls.
    As I’ve said, the NFL should have folded from the very beginning. Clearly, the CBA did not cover “accidental” usage.
    A couple of fatties were trying to lose weight. So what? Accusing them of anything else is a complete fabrication brought to you by NFL Lawyers. Thank you bob nelson.
    How the hell do you know FOR A YEAR….that a substance is spiked and not bother to say anything?
    Now that we know they did not suspend other players, the league CLEARLY waffled over the matter.
    From the very beginning….the league has been TOTALLY HAM-HANDED in this matter.
    Now a potential open door to liability? That’s hilarious. Now watch some nobody 6th stringer sue the league and get a $500,000 settlement.
    Morons. Pig-headed morons.

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