Cornwell Calls Out Drug Test Leaks

Sports attorney David Cornwell, a finalist for the NFLPA Executive Director position, has once again spoken out regarding breaches of confidentiality relating to the league’s supposedly private substance abuse and steroids policies.
Said Cornwell of the recent report from Tony Pauline of that Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji tested positive for marijuana, in a statement e-mailed to us:
“Under the NFL Substance Abuse Policy, players have an obligation not to use illegal drugs and the NFL has an obligation to preserve the confidentiality of test results.  Players are punished — not counseled; not treated — punished, if they fail to fulfill their obligation.   There needs to be some punishment for failing to maintain confidentiality as well.
“As a private enterprise, the NFL has wide discretion to advance its business interests.  Confidentiality is THE lynchpin of every workplace drug-testing program.   Repeated breaches of confidentiality threaten the legitimacy of the NFL’s testing programs.  It is disingenuous for the NFL to require perfect compliance from players and accept repeated non-compliance from itself.  It is also disingenuous to suggest there is nothing the NFL can do about it.”
As Cornwell did when Josina Anderson of FOX31 in Denver reported during the 2008 regular season that several players had tested positive for the banned substance Bumetanide, Cornwell has called for the reporter to be shunned by the league, absent disclosure of the persons who blabbed.
“The NFL should withhold access to all NFL-controlled events from Tony Pauline and until Pauline’s source is revealed,” Cornwell said.  “The public has no right to know information that NFL has an obligation to keep confidential.  No legitimate interest overrides a player’s fundamental right to confidentiality.  If I am wrong, then the public certainly has the right to know the names of the cowards who repeatedly breach confidentiality — only after receiving a reporter’s guarantee of anonymity.  It is preposterous to look the other way when players’ rights to confidentiality are breached, then wave the flag for journalistic integrity to protect the people who violate those rights.”
Cornwell raises an intriguing question.  Is it sufficient for a person subject to a fine of up to $500,000 to leak protected information by feeding it to a reporter pursuant to a promise of anonymity?
Though we think reporters should not be required to disclose their sources, we also think that the league needs to take more effective measures to keep confidential information that is supposed to be kept confidential.

42 responses to “Cornwell Calls Out Drug Test Leaks

  1. Cornwell is dead right on this. He is so right on this that the players may be thinking they picked the wrong guy.

  2. Blaming the reporter is like T.O. blaming the media. This is an NFL problem. They need to look in the mirror and get a grip on their own people.

  3. I completely agree. I think the players union should refuse all drug testing until the NFL can guarantee 100% confidentialty. $500k fines and loss of draft picks would go a long way to shutting teams up and honoring their commitments to the players.

  4. A journalist is under no obligation to keep information they acquire from hitting the presses. On the contrary, I believe (as a former journalist–college counts!) that reporters should go out of their way to publish any pertinent information they acquire from a trustworthy source. The blame for this leak belongs not with Tony Pauline, but rather with whoever blabbed to him. Newspapers don’t exist to keep secrets.

  5. For me it comes down to this; do you want a drug-free NFL or a players union? If you think both will happen, dream on.
    Union=tail wagging the dog

  6. You can’t stop the leaks. No way, not ever. If a guy doesn’t want the results of his drug test made public, then either A) Don’t do drugs or B) Don’t apply for jobs with mandatory drug testing.
    I don’t see a problem with solutions A and B, so lets not expend a whole bunch of effort on the mole-out process that is doomed to be fruitless.

  7. He’s an idiot if he thinks reporters will give up their sources. If you promise someone that they’ll remain anonymous and then give them up, even in court and ordered to, they can sue your ass and win for breach of contract. Some states (very few) have sunshine laws to protect against this, but you usually see more reporter’s go to jail for not giving up their source rather than risk their career and shutting down their newspaper with legal bills due to a lawsuit.

  8. Any NFL employee found to have violated the confidentiality of these tests should be fired. That will help put an end to this problem. Cornwell is right in that requiring perfect compliance from the players while at the same time not penalizing the people providing the leaked information is a double standard.
    That said, I believe the league wants these leaks stopped, but with so many people that have access to the info it is far easier said than done.

  9. The players shouldn’t even agree to testing, aside from performance enhancing substances.

  10. These leaks are costing players their images if nothing less, look at the Williams sisters, suddenly they arent as menacing if they’re using something to cover up steroids. And if you mention the S word around a pro-athlete sponsors back away because they don’t want their name affliated with a cheater…so lock the SI guy out. Set the bar. See how locking out the real media effects this media.

  11. a self righteous lawyer, where did they find him… i suspect he would want a portion of any fine…

  12. “”You can’t stop the leaks. No way, not ever. “”
    You can find them and fire them. Don’t know how many people the information is shared with, but if I one person hears Raji was postiive and another hears Cushing was positive.. see which one hits the news.
    “Blow some smoke down the pipes” -The Departed

  13. Florio talks in circles as usual. He wastes a readers time by writing fluff with no conclusions. In the end, he supports reporters’ obligation for source confidentiality.

  14. nerdmann says:
    April 12th, 2009 at 10:40 pm
    Blaming the reporter is like T.O. blaming the media. This is an NFL problem. They need to look in the mirror and get a grip on their own people.
    you are right on with this post

  15. I believe every season ticket holder with a PSL and a vested interest in their team or anyone who has sat through hundreds, if not thousands, of Toyota Tundra “Truck of the year” commercials has a right to know that their team drafted someone who couldn’t “just say no” even with millions of dollars on the line and that signing said schmuck and/or schmucks might turn your team into the Bengals.
    But hey, intimidate reporters and call people cowards…that’ll keep your paychecks coming.

  16. How many people actually had access to the results when the leak occurred? It can’t be too many. Detective Goodell should have an easy time of this IF the accuations are proven true. I assume the samples have numbers instead of names, so finding the leak shouldn’t be too hard. At any rate, Cornwell’s argument makes sense. What does the person who leaked the info have to gain except a pink slip? Goodell plays hard ball. Pauline just might get stonewalled unless he takes a trip to the principal’s office.

  17. Cornwell is a fool and just another Union (community) organizer! Any player dumb enough to fail a drug test at the combine should face the consequences of their stupidy! I hope the league crushes the union in the next CBA!

  18. Does anyone else see the problem here? It makes for a nice soundbite: “Under the NFL Substance Abuse Policy, players have an obligation … are punished — not counseled; not treated — punished …”.
    These reports arent concerning actual (yet) players; they dont (as I understand it) get “punished”, other than potentially losing millions of dollars, due to the effect these leaks may have on their draft position.

  19. Never seen Cornwell…no idea what the man looks like…but he SOUNDS like Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton….

  20. You can’t have it both ways. We have an independent press for a reason. The press can’t and won’t serve solely as your PR machine. A lot of public money (public stadiums and supporting infrastructure) and an anti-trust exemption make the NFL viable, and this arguably creates a public interest that the press should monitor. The NFL should do everything possible to protect the confidentiality of its employes, but no one should be surprised when leaks occur. Democracy is messy.

  21. This is yet another issue to be resolved through the collective bargaining process. If I were a team owner I would demand far more stringent hair testing over the easier to pass urine testing. Urine can be cleared in a matter of weeks, but hair documents a detailed history going back for months. If the union wants to take this up a notch, the management should as well.

  22. This is a great idea, but it’s tough to put in place. I mean, if the NFL can actually bull’s-eye the source of the leak, that person shouldn’t be fined or suspended or anything, they should be terminated without pay and never allowed to return. I don’t care if the person is Bill Parcells or an intern for the Seahawks, this can’t be tolerated.
    The only problem is what descendency pointed out. The NFL seems to think that “cracking down” on something means that you have to prioritize that one thing above everything else and make a huge example out of everyone who’s close to being involved.
    Maybe, just maybe, the NFL needs to release a statement that details what will happen to anyone found leaking confidential information. Then, just be open and honest and only punish people who are clearly guilty. You know, justice, as opposed to hysteria.

  23. It’s dumb to ask reporters not to report, or to ask them to reveal sources.
    The real point is more what he’s saying about the league: It’s obnoxious for them to demand perfect compliance from players when the player can’t even be reasonably sure that the tests to which he assents won’t become public.
    If the NFL can’t keep it confidential, they shouldn’t collect it.

  24. “You can’t stop the leaks. No way, not ever. ”
    Sure you can, at least up until the point that the teams get the results. You can stop it at the league office and the lab by reducing the number of people who know anything identifiable.
    At the league office, I’d have one boss in charge who assigns random labels to tests and keeps track of whose is whose. The samples I sent to the lab would be totally anonymous. I would have that same guy in the league office do everything involved with the reporting. The work would be done on a laptop with an encrypted hard drive, which was kept in a safe overnight.
    That way, there’s only one guy who knows. If it gets out, you know damn well who did it.
    Now, once the teams get the results, God help you. Best way I can think of is to tell the teams they can only tell the coaching/scouting staff, and to devote a couple of million dollars to be split among the ~10 guys/team and 32 teams *if* nothing leaks. That’s around $10k/year, which for the assistant coaches and scouts is probably significant. And if it does leak, the league won’t have to do their own witch hunt, the hundreds of guys screwed out of their money will do it for you.

  25. The NFL disingenuous? Whoever woulda thunk it? Not the NFL, no way, say it aint so. But say it with a straight face. I knew you couldn’t.

  26. I agree with this guy. I also agree that the SI guy should be shut out until he reveals his source, which I also agree he shouldn’t do.
    If you play with fire, you’re going to get burned. This reporter may be doing his job, but by reaching into the gray areas and getting sources that are essentially breaking company policy to give you your information? Yeah… I’m not totally down with that.
    So while he is “doing his job,” I don’t really think the way he is doing it is right. And because we all have the attitude of “if it’s not him, it’ll be someone else,” we’ve become indifferent to this type of behavior.
    Bottom line is David Cornwell is right. Hell, if you want to site HIPPA laws, these people are even breaking the law to release this information. Yeah, the people failing these tests are wrong, but they still have rights…

  27. it’s total lawyer BS…. think of all the medical staff that were deservedly fired for “reporting” on the Octomom’s medical records. But there is difference between leaking factual info from a secret report and making stuff up to drive web traffic and advertising dollars.
    Here’s what the NFL should really do, publicize the medical records, publicize the wonderlic scores, open the books and publicize every accounting detail, or return every single phreakin’ public financing dollar (with interest) that they received since the 1960’s.

  28. First of all, the players in question to not “belong” or “employed” by the NFL. They are merely auditioning for the chance to play in the NFL.
    They are interviewing for a job like anyone else does. In I am sure 99.9 % of companies, if you fail a pre – employment drug test for any reason, they simply don’t hire you. Why should these not quite employees be treated differently than anyone else. Word will leak out anyway that so and so was not hired cause he/she failed a drug test.

  29. I come to this site for the rumor mill, but I stay for the right wing crank comments. Who cares if nfl players do drugs? Nobody is screaming for record companies or movie studios to disclose which singers/actors/musicians do drugs. What’s the difference?
    But everybody should care about the right of an employer to disclose confidential information to the press, especially since the nfl is contractually obligated to keep them confidential.

  30. It seems to me it would be even more of a deterrent for players/teams if they knew the results would be public. It already goes public when they fail a test. BUT the public has to guess why they tested positive. Steroids=cheater Marijuana=dumbass Cocaine/X=super dumbass that shouldn’t be allowed in the league! Honest to God, it’s not hard to pass a drug test. Just don’t use illegal drugs!

  31. “Dear David,
    I got this, now go back to what you were doing before pandering for the job I won”
    PS, there’s a difference between a whistle-blower protection and reporters citing sources, or not. I’m no lawyer but I think that this is a distinction. There is no whistle to blow on a player testing positive for drugs.. just like there would be no whistle to blow if my HR manager went around the office telling everyone that I was fired or put on probation or whatever if I took a pee test and it came back cloudy. That HR manager doesn’t have the right to do that and neither does the NFL rep who looking for 15 minutes of pathetic fame, breaches his duty and gets a nice dinner from a reporter in exchange for confidential dirt.

  32. Prospective NFL players (draft eligible players) are protected by the NFLPA prior to being drafted or signed as college FA’s if I’m not mistaken. It’s NOT entirely the same as “merely auditioning” for a regular job…

  33. I think Cornwell is right to call out the NFL for its leaks on this issue. If this were any other employer, there would have been a very messy lawsuit filed, followed by a very quiet settlement. Not only that but anyone who was found to have performed the leaks would have been fired. The NFL does need to get their leaks under control, but to blame SI and Pauline is ludicrous. The media makes such an easy scapegoat that screaming “the media is wrong!” is bound to win you a few friends. Cornwell is simply playing to the peanut gallery, rather than trying to be constructive.

  34. Cornwell makes some interesting points…but this is just an outright lie, and he knows it:
    “Players are punished — not counseled; not treated — punished, if they fail to fulfill their obligation.”

  35. Spanky07,
    It sounds as if you are trying to say Cornwell sounds black but you are trying not to sound racist.
    It didn’t work.

  36. tuckrule,
    perhaps you can enlighten us on the counseling and treatment the NFL provides for its players.

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