Bears tight end Gabe Miller will miss the first four games of the regular season due to a suspension — if he makes the team. In his effort to remain in the good graces of the team he’s trying to make, Miller has issued a statement through said team.
“I would like to apologize to the entire Bears organization as well as our fans for taking a substance during the offseason that is prohibited by the NFL without a medical exemption,” Miller said. “While it was an isolated incident, I regret the poor judgment I showed and accept full responsibility for this mistake along with the punishment that comes with it. In the meantime I will continue to work hard and contribute in any way I can. I look forward to having the opportunity to make this up to the people that I have disappointed.”
Miller’s statement highlights one of the primary problems with the NFL’s policy regarding performance-enhancing substances. With the NFL and its teams unable to elaborate on the reasons for the suspension, the player can say whatever he wants. And so the player will be tempted to choose the path that avoids the stigma that comes from the perception of being a juicer.
Steroids? Stigma. Masking agents? Stigma?
Really, when was the last time a player admitted that he was caught taking steroids? Even Texans linebacker Brian Cushing, who tested positive for a hormone taken while taking steroids, came up with an alternative explanation to an admission of steroids use. Former NFL linebacker/defensive end Shawne Merriman, who tested positive for steroids, insisted he had taken a spiked supplement.
Whether it’s the truth or it isn’t, Miller’s explanation points to something other than steroids. By invoking the term “medical exemption,” the violation can be viewed not as cheating but as a clerical.
It also can be interpreted as a strong hint that the substance was Adderall, a prescription medication that more and more players seem to be taking. Or testing positive for taking. Or claiming they tested positive for taking when in reality they were taking something else.
Regardless, Miller violated the policy, which technically is titled the policy on “anabolic steroids and related substances.” The league and the NFLPA have identified the substances on the list, and it’s presumed that the substances on the list enhance performance.
So regardless of what the player says, a positive test for a substance on the banned list is a violation, and a violation means there was cheating. Thus, every suspension should have the same stigma as a steroids suspension, because the NFL and the NFLPA have agreed that the consequences for taking any of the prohibited substances is the same.