Despite a report to the contrary, the NFL and NFLPA have not agreed to dramatic changes to the rules regarding marijuana pending an agreement on HGH testing. However, other tentative deals have been struck on changes to the drug policies that would be implemented if/when the two sides can resolve their lingering differences regarding HGH.
Per a source with direct knowledge of the negotiations, the new policies would allow the NFL to say more regarding the reason for a suspension arising under the policy against performance-enhancing drugs. Currently, the NFL simply announces the suspension (four games for a first offense), and the player and/or his agent can say whatever they want in the wake of the announcement.
The excuse of choice used to be the “my supplement was tainted.” The trend then became to claim that the suspension arose from Adderall use, which carries far less of a stigma than steroids. At least one twice-former NFL defensive rookie of the year claimed that his suspension resulted from not cheating but a cancer scare.
Through it all, the NFL can say nothing to counter whatever the player and/or his agent tenders to the media with the goal of avoiding the patina of cheating.
The new policy, whenever HGH testing becomes a reality, would allow the league to disseminate more information about the violation. This will make it harder for players and/or agents to lie — and it will give other players more guidance as to the specific compounds and products that could get them suspended, too.
The league’s interest in ensuring that players accept responsibility for violations became clear last night, when the NFL issued a statement in response to agent Hadley Englehard’s comments regarding a four-game suspension imposed on Colts linebacker Robert Mathis. Technically, the NFL’s remarks could amount to a violation of the policy, which provides that “[t]he confidentiality of players’ medical conditions and test results will be protected to the maximum extent possible, recognizing that players who are disciplined for violating this Policy will come to the attention of and be reported to the public and the media.”
But Englehard opened the door by addressing the situation, and it’s unfair for players and/or agents to say things that minimize their actions and create the impression that the NFL’s testing process only catches guys who aren’t actually breaking the rules. Eventually (we hope), the league will be able to say more about why and how a guy got himself suspended.