Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell is indeed facing a four-game suspension for missing a drug test. But Bell continues to insist that he hasn’t missed a drug test — and that he won’t be missing any games.
In a comment to an altered photo on Instagram of Bell wearing a gas mask with a bong, Bell said from his verified account that “I’m not gonna miss games, trust me.”
Many will scoff at the proclamation, given the lingering perception that Commissioner Roger Goodell retains final say over all player disciplinary issues. In 2014, however, the league agreed to use a panel of neutral arbitrators for all punishments arising under the substance-abuse and PED policies. So Bell will have a chance to have a truly independent party assess whether the league’s conclusions are warranted.
Of course, that will become harder if, as NFL Media reported over the weekend, Bell has missed several drug tests.
Stop me if you’re heard this one before (actually, don’t bother because I’m going to say it again anyway): The substance-abuse policy has a clear confidentiality provision that is supposed to keep people from knowing that a player is facing a suspension until the suspension has been finalized through the appeal process. With NFL Media confirming the initial ESPN report regarding the suspension and with NFL Media advancing the story by reporting that Bell missed multiple tests, the NFL — which owns and operates NFL Media — is violating its own policy. And no one seems to be bothered by that. Ever.
It should bother Bell, his agent, the league, the Steelers, and the NFL Players Association. Bell’s case should have been handled no differently than any other situation in which a guy faced a suspension. If he prevails on appeal, no one ever would have known that anything was amiss.
That has happened in plenty of cases over the years. If Bell ultimately wins the appeal, it’s what should have happened in his case.