In what one source has described as a direct response to this week’s six-game suspension of Broncos linebacker Von Miller, the NFLPA has informed all players and agents that, moving forward, the process of collecting urine samples for drug testing will be followed more closely.
“In our efforts to improve the integrity of our collectively bargained joint drug policies, please remember that collection protocol rules, including validation of a player’s identification at the time of collection, will be strictly enforced,” the NFLPA said in an alert sent to all players and agents on Friday.
On Twitter, the NFLPA specifically mentioned that “validation of a player’s identification is required and will be strictly enforced.”
By emphasizing player identification, these messages invite speculation that Miler’s case may have involved the player sending someone else to take a drug test for him. Per the source, that was not one of the events that transpired in Miller’s case.
The NFLPA nevertheless has pointed out, of all aspects of urine collection, the validation of player ID, which means that something like this has happened in the past with another player, or at a minimum that the NFL and the NFLPA have realized that it would be an easy way to beat the system for the many NFL players who are not widely and instantly recognizable, especially when out of uniform.
The primary flaw in the process seems to be the failure of the collectors to directly observe the player generating the sample on a consistent basis. It’s a step that was added after Onterrio Smith introduced the term “Whizzinator” into the NFL lexicon, but with players like former Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams being suspended for providing non-human urine, it’s clear that the collectors aren’t actually watching in every case.
Likewise, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman beat a suspension because the sample collector failed to note on the official report that the player was asked to transfer the sample from a leaking cup to a new cup.
We’ve confirmed that the reduced suspension for Miller arose in part from NFL concerns regarding sample collection. With all positive tests for PEDs potentially resolved via third-party arbitration, it becomes critical for the NFL in every case to be able to demonstrate that all procedures were followed, and that the chain of custody from player to collector to lab has no broken links.