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Miller case once again raises questions about sample collection

Urine-sample---photographers-choice-RF---Getty---200249476-001 Getty Images

Apart from the numerous and ongoing breaches of confidentiality plaguing the Von Miller case (unless Von Miller’s camp is confidentially leaking details regarding the case), the NFL has a problem with its substance-abuse policy.

Per a league source, the NFL is nervous about potential flaws with the manner in which Miller’s sample was collected.  The anxiety and/or uncertainty possibly has contributed to the delay in taking the case to a hearing.  Currently, Miller and the league reportedly are negotiating a resolution that could drop the proposed six-game suspension down to four games.

The proposed six-game suspension reportedly is fueled by a spilled sample and, separately, a diluted sample.  While samples can be diluted via pre-test ingestion of certain substances, it also can be diluted by adding substances to the sample cup.  Spilled samples in theory can happen under even the strictest adherence to the testing protocol; however, it’s impossible to assess Miller’s case without considering other recent situations involving the collection process.

Last year, former Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams and defensive end Ryan McBean filed a lawsuit challenging their six-game suspensions.  They pointed to “fatal issues concerning the collection process,” noting that the specimen collector eventually was fired by the NFL for failure “to fulfill his duties and obligations as a specimen collector in material manners.”

Later in 2012, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman secured a reversal of a suspension because the sample collector allowed Sherman to transfer the contents of a leaking cup to a second cup, which the collector failed to mention in his official report.

“Insuring that the sample is collected properly is the cornerstone of the program and when an event occurs that does not happen routinely or that the collector has never experienced while collecting the sample it is incumbent on the collector to note what happened,” hearing officer Bob Wallace wrote in his decision regarding Sherman’s case.

In Miller’s case, no specific wrongdoing or failure has been alleged or reported regarding the sample collector.  Still, the situation is shining a light once again on the process of physically collecting urine specimens and properly transferring them to the lab for testing.

The persons who collect the samples operate largely in anonymity.  After the Onterrio Smith Whizzinator debacle, the process changed to require direct observation of the providing of the sample.  Over the years, however, we’ve heard from time to time accounts of sample collectors who don’t insist on actually watching the cup get filled.  (Indeed, how did D.J. Williams allegedly provided a “non-human urine” sample if the collector was actually watching the urine flow from a human?)

With multiple cases in the past year or so pointing to problems with the collection process, fair questions should be raised about the qualifications and the integrity of the persons charged with harvesting urine samples.  What are their qualifications?  How are they trained?  How are they supervised?  How much are they compensated?

In theory, abuses could be rampant.  Considering the financial stakes of a positive test, who’s to say a sample collector hasn’t been offered an envelope containing something other than a birthday card in order to ensure that the sample sent to the lab will be deemed clean?

We’re speculating on that point, but with little known about the collection process and with multiple instances of alleged irregularities, the NFL should be worried not only about the accuracy of the program but also the possibility of affirmative corruption.

With the HGH testing issue still not resolved and with all other issues regarding the league’s drug-testing policies still open because of it, this would be a perfect time for the NFLPA to ensure that steps are taken to protect players against negligent and/or intentional misconduct from the so-called piss men.  Given the consequences and stigma of a failed test, the league and the union should apply the same rigid standards to the collection process that are applied to the men who are giving the samples.

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43 Responses to “Miller case once again raises questions about sample collection”
  1. jimmyt says: Aug 20, 2013 7:18 AM

    A cheater that gets off on a technicality is still non-the-less a cheater.

  2. braven4evr says: Aug 20, 2013 7:21 AM

    If handling pee isn’t bad enough job, your accused of mishandling it…smh

  3. wryly1 says: Aug 20, 2013 7:22 AM

    Baloney. Utter baloney. While their is some ongoing discussion on certain substances like HGH, the NFLPA players union and the league have an agreement on testing. All Miller had to do was pee in a cup in accordance with a procedure that thousands of players have done and the labs techs have processed thousands of times. The problem is players with something to hide trying to compromise, avoid, or go around the process.

  4. alonestartexan says: Aug 20, 2013 7:22 AM

    Looks like someone urinated apple juice..

  5. youarejealousof6rings says: Aug 20, 2013 7:34 AM

    One thing is clear: the Steelers do not have to worry about this sort of thing.

  6. nolahxc says: Aug 20, 2013 7:43 AM

    Braun Miller.

  7. jag8r904 says: Aug 20, 2013 7:44 AM

    If you did spilled your sample, you wouldn’t have to pee immediately after. So, you would hang out and drink a bunch of water until you had to go again and it probably would be diluted.

    He may not be innocent, but it is an easily defended explication.

  8. Iknoweverything says: Aug 20, 2013 7:49 AM

    I think it has been proven that Denver has a history of their players cheating and then trying to beat the tests. Its no longer coincidence and Goodell should start proceedings against the organization for condoning and encouraging these blatant attempts to gain advantage over other teams.
    The Donkeys never get rid of a productive player that cheats, instead the team aids in their appeal and defense. This organization is as corrupt as New England

  9. snowman36 says: Aug 20, 2013 7:57 AM

    So he is getting off on a technicality?? Hey what ever works.

  10. nananatman says: Aug 20, 2013 7:59 AM

    Giving him 6 games and then being willing to drop it to 4 games maybe, it hasn’t happened yet, doesn’t sound particularly nervous to me.

  11. truthserum4u says: Aug 20, 2013 8:00 AM

    Always a conspiracy.

    There are strict guidelines for collecting the samples, not so willy-nilly as suggested here. While there certainly can be issues, to suggest there could be improprieties in the form of pay-offs, without any inkling of proof, is totally irresponsible.

  12. 49erstim says: Aug 20, 2013 8:03 AM

    Why didn’t Von just do what Richard Sherman did? “Ya gots da crak dat cup bro! I’m betta at cheatin da system dan you”

  13. aaroncurryisbust says: Aug 20, 2013 8:09 AM

    Improper procedure has no place in a league worth billions.

  14. beckzhere says: Aug 20, 2013 8:15 AM

    Cheaters will always find a way to work the system. It’s a shame, but also a reality.

  15. allhailkingflacco says: Aug 20, 2013 8:22 AM

    Maybe the NFL should have thought twice when reading the sample collector’s application:

    Nickname: Butterfingers Mcguilacutty

  16. whatnojets says: Aug 20, 2013 8:24 AM

    “which Cook failed to mention in his official report.”

    Ok, I’ll bite…..who is “Cook”?

  17. tattooit says: Aug 20, 2013 8:32 AM

    I :heart: a roided up NFL. Including all the refs. Hell, feed the coaches and camera men roids too if it makes the entertainment value for ME better. I couldn’t care less.

  18. joetoronto says: Aug 20, 2013 8:32 AM

    The NFL needs to send a clear message and crack down hard on these turds.

    Enough is enough.

  19. thehuckster404 says: Aug 20, 2013 8:33 AM

    It wouldn’t surprise me if it came out that the league office was responsible for these inconsistencies during drug testing. As long as it appears to Congress that the NFL is trying to control its drug problem, and Congress leaves their antitrust status alone, all is well.

  20. tombradyswig says: Aug 20, 2013 8:51 AM

    the only solution is blood tests!
    You get paid millions of $$$ to play a kids game! Be clean and wait to smoke or snort ’til after your playing career is over!

  21. coachbeck says: Aug 20, 2013 8:52 AM

    It’s obvious which teams are the one who need extra eyes. Denver has been doing this for years. Why are we shocked when one of their players Is caught cheating?

  22. bach2112 says: Aug 20, 2013 8:58 AM

    This is insane. How hard is it to pee in a cup.and hand it to someone. Most of us have taken a UA at one time or another and never had this problem. These players have the money and publicity to fight positive hits. Look at Braun totally ruined the collecter rep and job for lying hie butt off. So folks some of these young players like to smoke a little weed and party on occasion. Personally the weed thing is stupid but they agreed to it through their union. So buck up face your time and come back and kick butt.

  23. markchmurasbabysitter says: Aug 20, 2013 9:04 AM

    Everything here is incredibly shady. I have to take yearly random pee tests for my employer, and not once have I spilled or had to transfer to another cup. Just stop cheating ppl.

  24. EJ says: Aug 20, 2013 9:13 AM

    Rodger Goodell himself should observe all urine collections, that is the only way the test could be 100% kosher. Otherwise, there are too many factors that make the test unsure.

  25. wildbillsrodeo says: Aug 20, 2013 9:29 AM

    If there is concern about testers not directly watching players give a urine sample, they could always setup a closed circuit camera in a “testing room” at each facility.

  26. thetwilightsown says: Aug 20, 2013 9:35 AM

    Any other team and this guy is dead and buried in the court of public opinion. Miller shows up to his hearing with Peyton Manning as his attorney and this baby is DONE, SON. He’ll be back on the field in no time.

  27. abninf says: Aug 20, 2013 9:35 AM

    While samples can be diluted via pre-test ingestion of certain substances, it also can be diluted by adding substances to the sample cup.
    ====================================

    Testing of the sample can determine if it was tampered with. And if the “piss men” are/allowed to, ahem, physically see the sample enter the cup then tampering is virtually impossible.

  28. eventhorizon04 says: Aug 20, 2013 9:47 AM

    …You’d really think the NFL would be able to afford a guy who could collect pee in a cup without spilling it on the floor after the player hands it to them.

    The NFL has to be going VERY cheap to be hiring someone who can’t handle that “responsibility.”

  29. taosravenfan says: Aug 20, 2013 10:21 AM

    As much as I would like to not see Miller in the first game of the season, being a Ravens fan, this is serious stuff. What we are talking about is called “chain of custody” and it is extroindarily important in legal terms when dealing with tissue or bodily samples.

    As a urologist, I have seen many different ways people try to get out of being tested as far as catheterizing themselves and putting in their wifes urine. The problem is that as a standard they used a pregnancy test and it turned out to be a miracle. Either the man was pregnant or he was cheating on his drug test.

    Chain of custody is paramount to having the assurance that drug tests are valid.

  30. tformation says: Aug 20, 2013 10:23 AM

    I don’t get this at all. Why would you need to transfer urine to another container?

    I took a drug test in 1999 for a freelance job, and the company that gave the test did NOT mess around. I had privacy in a small bathroom that huge signs everywhere: “DO NOT FLUSH THE TOILET” Sinks were removed from the bathroom too. And I think I was timed, too. The lady took my urine cup without any joking or levity. All business. Hello, wee-wee, I’ll take that, Good-bye.

    Why would “another container” even enter into that situation? Innocent until proven guilty and all that, but this is fishy…

  31. nodindenver says: Aug 20, 2013 10:27 AM

    Anybody that has been in the military or has an occupation that requires testing knows that the testing authority has this procedure down pat. There are very few actual cases of problems with the collections; the only problems are that you have a few high paid athletes that realize that they are soon to be busted and therefore make problems with the collection process. Any of the rest of us that pull this crap would be sent down the road.

  32. pdidit09 says: Aug 20, 2013 10:34 AM

    I think once marijuhna is legalized a lot of these suspensions would cut down 90% in my opinion. I agree if you’re testing and don’t want cheating, stop taking urine samples, like someone else stated do blood test, or hair samples.

  33. aldante66 says: Aug 20, 2013 10:55 AM

    Flaws? First any drug testing program is independent.
    It has to be collected by a third party who is not tied to the union nor the org. baseball, football, etc.

    There only, only, only job is to schedule ad hoc tests, do assigned test of those who have failed previous tests, and make dam dam dam sure no one f’s with the collected results. Its there dam job.

    If you own the company and have a huge contract like this, you create a system that is flawless. If the testing lab screws it up, you sue and or fire them.

    I would be shocked if there is a flaw in the system where collection and storage and testing isn’t triple guarded. I would not be shocked to here lawyers clamoring that it is flawed.

  34. milehighsativa says: Aug 20, 2013 11:06 AM

    jimmyt says: Aug 20, 2013 7:18 AM

    A cheater that gets off on a technicality is still non-the-less a cheater.
    _____________________________________

    Calling him a cheater would be like saying you are illiterate because you don’t know the phrase is spelled “none-the-less”. For all I know, you do know that and the missing -e is a simple mistake. Kind of like spilling a cup. And god forbid you hydrate at practice, thats cheating! What a farce. What a bunch of farceholes.

  35. lenrossen says: Aug 20, 2013 11:12 AM

    I think testing and rules against performance enhancing drugs are all just political. Currently in the NFL there are over 40 approved drugs that trainers can administer to the player. Most are performance enhancing, like the one that Brian Urlacher had used as well as others that block out pain. He took a regular injection prior to all games. Hey, its been approved by the NFL.

    In Tennis the approved ratio of Testosterone v epitosterone is something like 14:1, in Tennis its maybe 8:1. I do not know what the NFL approved ratio is. Subjective and arbitrary.

    Getting hit in the head for 10 years, is a real issue. That the NFL is doing something about. Good going.

    Oh, HGH. I just read the latest from the doctors who are leading the pioneering work trying to apply bio-markers. The lead doctor said that out of the most recent 1500 tests, they were able to identify a single usage…and that was precipitated by the user admitting to usage.

    Left to their own…I would guess that the number of players willingly taking drugs that harm their bodies would not vary much from the number being caught. Even students stop taking stuff after finals. Please, marijuana is performance enhancing, to what, listening to music.

    The real issues for professional football

  36. Rick Spielman is a Magician says: Aug 20, 2013 11:28 AM

    Aaron Rodgers is standing firmly behind Miller.

    And believe me, when someone is providing a urine sample, that’s the best place to be standing.

  37. atwaterslaughter says: Aug 20, 2013 11:44 AM

    Well, here starts the media-back track of the originally PAINFULLY ambiguous circumstances. See ya on the field in September, Von.

  38. jrebar88 says: Aug 20, 2013 11:51 AM

    Roger Goodell shouldnt be apart of the appeals process.

  39. granadafan says: Aug 20, 2013 12:11 PM

    I’ve taken and tested samples for over 15 years and now perform investigations into deviations in the pharmaceutical industry. Whenever there is a test failure, the fingers immediately point to the people who a) took the sample and b) tested the sample in the lab.

    Yes, there are instances when someone will improperly take a sample or drop a sample, but the failure in the test is contamination for microbes. You will NOT get a failure in steroids or HGH. If you put a cracked sample cup in a sterile bag, there would already have to be PEDs IN THE BAG for there to be a false positive. In other words, the lawyers for Sherman, Braun, DJ Williams, and Von Miller are full of it.

  40. nflfan1326 says: Aug 20, 2013 12:16 PM

    A case of Miller usually results in urine.

  41. milehigh53 says: Aug 20, 2013 12:31 PM

    So just to be clear, he never truly did have a dirty urine sample, right? Just a really really clean urine sample. And if your urine is too clean, that results in a suspension? Wow.

  42. azwildcats96 says: Aug 20, 2013 4:09 PM

    None of the reports mention who exactly spilled the original test sample. For all we know, Von could have given the sample to the technician and it was spilled after he left. Also, his subsequent urine sample did not test positive. It was flagged because it was diluted. I don’t care how much water you drink, it will not mask the presence of ped’s. All these Bronco haters need to calm down and stop jumping to conclusions.

  43. mrlaloosh says: Aug 20, 2013 9:39 PM

    Von Braun? Where have I heard that before. All u fanboy Bronco suck-ups need to get a clue. HE CHEATED! Got caught and is now suspended. BooFinHoo.

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