NFL, union closing in on a deal for revised substance-abuse policy

Reuters

While the NFL and the NFLPA remain at impasse on one lingering issue regarding the policy regarding performance-enhancing drugs, the league and the union are moving toward a deal to revise the substance-abuse policy, which covers street drugs like marijuana.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the two sides met this week to discuss both policies.  As to the substance-abuse policy, a deal is almost done.

For the PED policy, every part of the policy related to hGH is agreed to and done in principle.  The NFL and NFLPA have agreed to conduct a population study, agreed on the procedure for drawing blood, negotiated discipline for positive tests, and agreed that positive tests for all PED violations will be subject to third-party arbitration.

The one point preventing a PED deal arises from penalties due to a violation of the law or other conduct unrelated to a positive test.  The league wants Commissioner Roger Goodell to handle the appeals; the NFLPA wants those appeals to be exported to arbitration.

The NFL refuses to relinquish authority that the Commissioner has had for decades.  It’s a concept that the league regards as settled and off-limits.

“[Pete] Rozelle has control over the integrity of the game, and it’s within his right to do it,” former NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw said in 1983, after Rozelle suspended a quartet of players for off-field drug violations.  “He talked to me a week before he came down with his ruling. I talked to my player reps. We decided on a hands-off policy.”

The NFLPA currently wants the Commissioner to take his hands off all PED discipline arising from violations of the law.  For now, the two sides are doing the middle-school dance standoff.  Short of giving the Commissioner the ability to make the initial decision with a third-party having the ability to review it based on a standard that gives the Commissioner’s ruling some deference, it’s hard to find a middle ground on this one.