The NFL’s PED policy contains a clear and unambiguous confidentiality provision that, unfortunately, is never enforced. And in no case would enforcement be more appropriate than in the case of Patriots receiver Julian Edelman.
If Edelman tested positive for a substance that has not yet been identified, and if further testing results in a finding that the substance is not a performance-enhancing drug, Edelman will indeed win his appeal. (It’s a defense much more persuasive than, “I don’t know what happened.”)
And if Edelman wins his appeal, it will mean that no one ever should have known about the tentative positive. Which means that Edelman will unfairly be viewed by plenty of fans as a guy who violated the PED policy, even if it turns out that he never did.
The PED policy provides that the NFL and the NFL Players Association “may, in appropriate cases, agree to retain an independent investigator to investigate and report on alleged breaches of confidentiality,” with fines of up to $500,000 potentially imposed.
In this case, someone breached the confidentiality provision by leaking to Field Yates and Adam Schefter of ESPN the fact that Edelman is facing a suspension. Someone then told Kim Jones of NFL Media (an NFL employee who, unlike Yates and Schefter, would be subject to the confidentiality provision) that the information was accurate. So what will the NFL and the NFLPA do about it?
Probably nothing, because the NFL and NFLPA never do anything when it comes to breaches of the confidentiality provision. Even when a player is clearly victimized by the breach, because Edelman will be stigmatized by the report of a potential PED suspension, regardless of whether further testing results in a finding that Edelman didn’t violate the policy.
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen when Edelman’s case will be resolved. Per a league source, a date for the appeal hearing hasn’t been selected yet. Presumably, further testing in the interim could exonerate Edelman.
Regardless of how it all turns out, no one should know that Edelman is facing a PED suspension. If the NFL and NFLPA were serious about the confidentiality provision in the PED policy, perhaps no one would.