Understanding the “unrecognized substance” quirk in Julian Edelman’s positive PED test

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At first blush, the report that Patriots receiver Julian Edelman‘s positive PED test was “triggered by a substance that wasn’t immediately recognizable” created an opening for thinking that the NFL has yet to conclude that Edelman took a banned substance, and that the NFL ultimately may conclude that he didn’t. Closer inspection of the PED policy paints a different picture.

There’s no provision in the PED policy that transforms a “substance that wasn’t immediately recognizable” into a positive result. Instead, a four-game suspension arises from a positive test for an anabolic agent that comes from the laundry list of 71 specific substances or that falls within the potentially broad catch-all of “other substances with a similar chemical structure and similar biological effect(s).”

That’s the more likely (and likely more accurate) description of the situation. It’s not that Edelman’s urine sample showed the presence of some substance that medical science is incapable of identifying; it’s that the sample had a substance with “a similar chemical structure and similar biological effect(s)” as one of the 71 specific anabolic agents listed in the PED policy.

Whatever it was, it presumably showed up in both the “A” bottle and “B” bottle, which are created when the urine sample is split into two separate samples, in order to allow for two separate tests. And even if the NFL’s medical experts haven’t specifically fit the substance within any of the 71 anabolic agents listed in the policy, it wouldn’t have been a positive test unless the unrecognized substance has “a similar chemical structure and similar biological effect(s)” to an anabolic agent.

Logic points to an anabolic agent because of the length of the suspension (a positive test for a masking agent or similar substance triggers only a two-game suspension), and because stimulants don’t fall under the PED policy in the offseason. Common sense points to the reality that if the NFL truly had no idea what the substance was, the outcome wouldn’t have been a positive test — because the PED policy does not contemplate any discipline for a player based simply upon the fact that there’s something in the urine that can’t be identified.

It’s also possible that the unrecognized substance came from an effort to adulterate the sample, which provides separate grounds for discipline. In those cases, however, the discipline may be enhanced, in order to deter efforts to manipulate the outcome via an additive aimed at scrubbing the sample after it is provided. (Masking agents, in contrast, are taken by the player to hide the presence of the banned substance in the urine.)

Here’s the bottom line: The NFL doesn’t immediately dub a sample with an “unrecognized substance” a positive test. If it’s a positive test, that means the NFL discovered something in the urine that indicates PED use. And while Edelman will still have appeal rights, the fact that the substance doesn’t neatly fit within the scope of one of the 71 listed anabolic agents is irrelevant if the unrecognized substance has “similar chemical structure and similar biological effect(s).”

The fact that the test was positive points to a substance that fits within that catch-all language, and the characterization of this as a positive of “a substance that wasn’t immediately recognizable” seems like a not-so-subtle effort to create the impression that Edelman didn’t ingest a banned substance. The circumstances suggest that the NFL believes he did.

50 responses to “Understanding the “unrecognized substance” quirk in Julian Edelman’s positive PED test

  1. It’s a game of cat and mouse. The players do their best to hide it … the NFL tries to find it. He was caught. Just because they can’t define the substance doesn’t magically erase that fact. Well, for Patriots fans it does … but everyone else understands.

  2. Please, this from the organization that didn’t understand basic 7th grade science! Then lied to fix the outcome!
    Weird how yet another Manning managed to skate on any discipline. Julian needs to either change his name to Manning, or change his team to the Giants.

  3. Ok, that makes more sense to me. I’m a Pats guy, love Jules, but I’m under no illusions that most of these pro athletes aren’t on some kind of sauce at some point. From experience working in the fitness industry, I’ve never personally seen anyone get enormous on a strictly natural program. When you read The Rock’s diet online, if you think it’s just 4,500 calories of tuna, chicken breast, sweet potatoes, I have some tough news for you about the Tooth Fairy, you might want to sit down. Guys like that are on all kinds of trenbolone, winstrol, testosterone boosters, etc, or at least have been if they aren’t running it currently. Excuse me….”allegedly.”

  4. But how can you ban a guy 4 games without saying what it is? – it’s impossible to defend/appeal because he can’t figure out how it popped up let alone deny taking it if it isn’t even identified.

  5. Yes, it made no sense that an unrecognizable substance should immediately be deemed performance enhancing without additional information. It was clear that there was more to the original story which served to allow Patriots fans to feel they were being treated unfairly.

  6. When NFL players look “comic book ripped and shredded” as opposed to just “professional athlete ripped and shredded” I don’t get shocked then the former gets pooped for PED’s.

    I’m a huge Pats fans but Julian looks like he belongs on the Xmen. He’s absolutely jacked. Anyone else remember when he destroyed Vince Young (Eagles) when Julian was playing DB back in 2010? Young was twice Julian’s size but Edelman just leveled him none the less. Mighty Might!

  7. I wonder if there is information on all the ban substances that players can review before they take anything that is updated constantly? Or maybe call the league and asked before taking.

  8. Of course they “believe” he did just like Gomer Manning’s wife had batches upon batches of UNDETECTABLE CHINESE HGH to their house where Manning lied about it.

    Article 46 simply disappeared in 2015 right in the middle of framing the Pats for a comical post inspection scheme of footballs.

    This simply cannot be made up.

    Goodell is cheating again. That’s what this means. It’s an opportunity to yet again try to make it hard on the Pats, and this is another way to do it.

    UNreal. Absolutely unreal and the ratings continue to drop.

  9. redlikethepig says:
    June 12, 2018 at 10:29 am
    It’s a game of cat and mouse. The players do their best to hide it … the NFL tries to find it. He was caught. Just because they can’t define the substance doesn’t magically erase that fact. Well, for Patriots fans it does … but everyone else understands.

    ———————-

    Caught with what? It’s been 2 months.

    This is just like Deflategate where they lie and work backwards, with Article 46 now as his ace in the hole to cheat.

    You people are seriously really stupid.

    This is a huge reason why ratings are dropping. Honest fans, even ones jealous and hating of the Pats to such an unhealthy degree, even can see right through this cheating by Goodell.

    The guy gave Philly two free TDS in the Super Bowl and you people still want more than the 1lb of flesh.

    It’s sick.

  10. shadywarrior says:
    June 12, 2018 at 10:44 am
    Ok, that makes more sense to me. I’m a Pats guy, love Jules, but I’m under no illusions that most of these pro athletes aren’t on some kind of sauce at some point. From experience working in the fitness industry, I’ve never personally seen anyone get enormous on a strictly natural program. When you read The Rock’s diet online, if you think it’s just 4,500 calories of tuna, chicken breast, sweet potatoes, I have some tough news for you about the Tooth Fairy, you might want to sit down. Guys like that are on all kinds of trenbolone, winstrol, testosterone boosters, etc, or at least have been if they aren’t running it currently. Excuse me….”allegedly.”

    23 3 Rate This

    ——————–

    It doesn’t matter.

    It has to be on the list.

    When Manning lied about his undetectable Chinese HGH from Guyer, he didn’t test positive for that reason, but he also lied to Goodell and the entire world, where Article 46 was buried.

    in this case, something was flagged, but after 2 months that can’t tell Edelman or ANYONE what it is.

    They leaking of the news has to be strategic to paint an air of sinister activity to gain public support to cheat the Pats, as you’re seeing right now. People don’t care if Goodell is a cheater; they just want the Pats cheated.

  11. The NFL expects these guys to play Sunday, then rebound and play Thursday and do it naturally??? As far as I’m concerned, put it a vending machine full of PEDs in every locker room. The team doctors give them things that are much worse for them. Let smoke weed while they’re at it.

  12. glad to see tylawpick is here to spout his hatred of Goodell. I wonder if his is a “burner” account ran by Gisele or TB himself?

    It took the doping people eleven years to identify what Lance Armstrong was on, years to identify what Bonds was taking (only discovered by the Balco investigation). New chemical compounds are invented every day; many to mimic the effects of others, without showing the same chemical signature. My personal belief is many NFL players take these “designer” substances in the hope they are undetectable.
    So, the urine sample contained a substance which “acts” like a banned substance. Shortly, the chemists analyzing it will present the molecular structure of this substance, which will then be added, by name, to the banned list, and, a specific test for it will be added to the regimen.

  13. willycents says:
    June 12, 2018 at 11:46 am
    glad to see tylawpick is here to spout his hatred of Goodell. I wonder if his is a “burner” account ran by Gisele or TB himself?

    It took the doping people eleven years to identify what Lance Armstrong was on, years to identify what Bonds was taking (only discovered by the Balco investigation). New chemical compounds are invented every day; many to mimic the effects of others, without showing the same chemical signature. My personal belief is many NFL players take these “designer” substances in the hope they are undetectable.
    So, the urine sample contained a substance which “acts” like a banned substance. Shortly, the chemists analyzing it will present the molecular structure of this substance, which will then be added, by name, to the banned list, and, a specific test for it will be added to the regimen.

    0 0 Rate This

    ————–

    May I ask who loves Goodell besides his accountant, his wife, and cheating owners and their cheating fans who want the PAts cheated?

    I mean, LMAO.

    You people hate facts, don’t you? It doesn’t jive with your backnig of Goodell’s cheating. We get it.

  14. streetyson says:
    June 12, 2018 at 10:57 am
    But how can you ban a guy 4 games without saying what it is? – it’s impossible to defend/appeal because he can’t figure out how it popped up let alone deny taking it if it isn’t even identified.

    —————

    Anyone who has taken Organic 1 and 2 (you have to take Inorganic 1 and 2 first) knows EXACTLY what Florio is talking about. Anyone who hasn’t and understands what he is talking about, could have or should have.

    It’s actually way more difficult than Physics. Not even close. Which is why everyone understands delfategate but not chemistry. Rocket science has nothing on molecular chemistry/biology or whatever they are calling it these days.

  15. terripet says:
    June 12, 2018 at 10:32 am
    Hang a banner

    ——

    The Patriots do that a lot, thank you.

    They say “Super Bowl Champion” though.

    I guess the “hey, we play football too!” ones Indy hangs are cute, so at least you’ve got that.

  16. Dominos are fallin’! This story will eventually lead to the discovery a huge PED hiding cover up by NE. This time they will have their dirty trophies stripped away because they won’t be able to destroy the evidence as they have done so many times in the past. Belicheat will be booted from the league, Kraft forced to sell the cheating franchise and all will be snubbed from HOF consideration. HAHAH! Life is good!

  17. So translation, it’s the Patriots. Wouldn’t be surprised to see loss of draft picks and a team fine as well.. Because why not, it’s the Patriots… Peyton Manning could have shot a needle of anything in front of the drug test person and got away with it. In no way does it look like Edelman was trying to use PEDs. Just like Goodell’s explanation of why Brady was guilty of Deflategate, “I didn’t believe him”. Great evidence you’ve got there Goodell. When will this league figure out that this is fuel for Patriots?

  18. This is so disappointing on so many levels. Literally all our championships now have question marks. Were Edelman heroics in the last 2 SB wins assisted by PEDs? We don’t win those 2 SBs without him especially against the Seahawks in which he should have been the SB MVP. Initially, I questioned the news and wondered if it was another Goodell witchunt but then Edelman apologized and said he didn’t know what happened. Not exactly strong denial there. I am so disappointed to what this does to our legacy now. The whole Guerrero, TB12 connection stinks.

  19. tylawspick6 says:
    June 12, 2018 at 11:54 am
    willycents says:
    June 12, 2018 at 11:46 am
    glad to see tylawpick is here to spout his hatred of Goodell. I wonder if his is a “burner” account ran by Gisele or TB himself?

    It took the doping people eleven years to identify what Lance Armstrong was on, years to identify what Bonds was taking (only discovered by the Balco investigation). New chemical compounds are invented every day; many to mimic the effects of others, without showing the same chemical signature. My personal belief is many NFL players take these “designer” substances in the hope they are undetectable.
    So, the urine sample contained a substance which “acts” like a banned substance. Shortly, the chemists analyzing it will present the molecular structure of this substance, which will then be added, by name, to the banned list, and, a specific test for it will be added to the regimen.

    0 0 Rate This

    ————–

    May I ask who loves Goodell besides his accountant, his wife, and cheating owners and their cheating fans who want the PAts cheated?

    I mean, LMAO.

    You people hate facts, don’t you? It doesn’t jive with your backnig of Goodell’s cheating. We get it.
    ———————————————————-

    So you’re basically saying that all PEDs just ‘existed’ and never had to be created and no new PEDs could ever be created?

  20. Patriots paranoid fanbase that thinks everyone is out to get them is out in full force, led by their apoplectic tylawspick6. Just stop with the whining for once, will you? There is a very high probability he was juicing with a designer PED and got caught – that isn’t “the league” – it’s science. Deal with those facts and quit pointing at deflategate to try to marry that with any Pats story.

  21. The truth will eventually come out that it was not a performance enhancing drug, but rather it was his use of all natural healing methods that showed up as “unrecognizable.” Yes, it was Giant Mamba Fang, the healing method of The Ancients that caused the test to be determined as “positive.” I think the NFL should let this one slide, as I have it on good authority that Alex Guerrero has The Voodoo Queen of New Orleans on speed dial on his Ouija Board and she’s got her Roger Goodell doll set up with pins at the ready…

  22. The truth will eventually come out that it was not a performance enhancing drug, but rather it was his use of all natural healing methods that showed up as “unrecognizable.” Yes, it was Giant Mamba Fang, the healing method of The Ancients that caused the test to be determined as “positive.” I think the NFL should let this one slide, as I have it on good authority that Alex Guerrero has Marie Laveau, The Voodoo Queen of New Orleans on speed dial on his Ouija Board and she’s got her Roger Goodell doll set up with pins at the ready…

  23. This article makes no sense. If they found a substance in his urine that was similar to XYZ banned substance, why wouldn’t they just say exactly that? End of story.

    Instead they say they found an unrecognized substance. If it’s unrecognized, how on earth would they know what effect it has or that it is performance enhancing?

    More like: “We found something we do not recognize, therefore it must be performance enhancing.”

  24. bentedges
    Jun 12, 2018, 1:38 PM EDT
    Patriots paranoid fanbase that thinks everyone is out to get them is out in full force, led by their apoplectic tylawspick6. Just stop with the whining for once, will you? There is a very high probability he was juicing with a designer PED and got caught – that isn’t “the league” – it’s science. Deal with those facts and quit pointing at deflategate to try to marry that with any Pats story.

    Deflategate was also “science” but you and all the other idiots didn’t want to listen to the “science”. Even to this day you can go online and research the science involved in Deflategate and you’ll see that it totally discredits everything that the NFL has on the Patriots and actually proves their innocence. Now when it fits your agenda all of a sudden you’re going to lean on science as a way discredit the Pats. The irony here is just too funny. So basically science is useful only when you want it to be

  25. And just so everyone knows, patsfan4lifesbchamps is actually a Jets fan. He is seriously a fan of a rival of the Pats that has actually been pretending to be a fan of the Patriots just so he can bash them and in turn make everyone think that he’s being logical. I’m being dead serious on this one. What kind of person does that?

  26. boyso3 says:
    June 12, 2018 at 2:23 pm
    And just so everyone knows, patsfan4lifesbchamps is actually a Jets fan. He is seriously a fan of a rival of the Pats that has actually been pretending to be a fan of the Patriots just so he can bash them and in turn make everyone think that he’s being logical. I’m being dead serious on this one. What kind of person does that?

    2 0 Rate This

    ——————-

    I am pretty sure it’s the dork on the old Boston Globe board who would troll the living daylights out of the place repeating the same thing into every thread, over and over.

    His life was completely uprooted due to the Pats success. It’s one of the worst forms of mental illness anyone has ever seen.

    Just think, a sports franchise can drive someone into a brand new diagnosis of mental illness. LMAO

  27. boyso3 says:
    June 12, 2018 at 2:19 pm
    bentedges
    Jun 12, 2018, 1:38 PM EDT
    Patriots paranoid fanbase that thinks everyone is out to get them is out in full force, led by their apoplectic tylawspick6. Just stop with the whining for once, will you? There is a very high probability he was juicing with a designer PED and got caught – that isn’t “the league” – it’s science. Deal with those facts and quit pointing at deflategate to try to marry that with any Pats story.

    Deflategate was also “science” but you and all the other idiots didn’t want to listen to the “science”. Even to this day you can go online and research the science involved in Deflategate and you’ll see that it totally discredits everything that the NFL has on the Patriots and actually proves their innocence. Now when it fits your agenda all of a sudden you’re going to lean on science as a way discredit the Pats. The irony here is just too funny. So basically science is useful only when you want it to be

    ————————-

    You’re not as intelligent as you think you are, mainly because you hitch your wagon to proven cheater (in a federal court), Roger Goodell. You probably also believe the boogeyman jumped into that elevator to knock our Rice’s wife, because that is what Goodell wanted you to believe, too.

    LMAO

    I mean, this is your mental illness to deal with, not Pats fans’.

    We’ve heard it all from magical cameras, to soft footballs, to headset sabotage, to gameplan thefts, to spiked Gatorades, etc, etc.

    At the end of it all, it’s just delaying your clinical assistance that you all so desperately need.

  28. fjw2 says:
    June 12, 2018 at 2:13 pm
    This article makes no sense. If they found a substance in his urine that was similar to XYZ banned substance, why wouldn’t they just say exactly that? End of story.

    Instead they say they found an unrecognized substance. If it’s unrecognized, how on earth would they know what effect it has or that it is performance enhancing?

    More like: “We found something we do not recognize, therefore it must be performance enhancing.”

    ————————

    Exactly. For the slow people here, like “Boys03”, they can’t quite grasp such a simple fact.

    In other words, even if Edelman was guilty, which this leak and lack of knowing what the positive test is for, proves he’s likely NOT guilty, this leak and now, STORY, would not exist.

    They’re leaking it out so when Goodell cheats with Article 46, people will already be conditioned to believe Edelman is guilty.

    This is what Goodell does. He lies and leaks, and then watches the haters stand behind him.

    He then gets caught lying and the ratings drop some more. It’s all just so confusing.

  29. No.

    Drug tests have not been designed to test for “a similar chemical structure and similar biological effect(s)”.

    The tests are looking for certain concentrations of chemicals with certain properties.

    The language is a catch all for the policy, but has no effect on how the tests actually work.

    I’m content to wait for an official announcement. But if the official announcement is that they have no idea what Edelman took, that should not fly with anyone.

  30. as a disclaimer im a pats fan. i will say this is not a good look for julian. i do have to say though, for something thats supposed to be confidential, a lot of people know whats going on before the appeal has even been heard.

  31. Look, I’m a Patriots fan. We don’t yet know all the facts, so I don’t know one way of another what went on here. It’s possible JE11 knowingly took a substance that triggered the failure, it’s possible it was accidental, and it’s possible he’ll win his appeal.

    More than 50 players have been suspended for violating the League’s PED policy over the last three years. A small handful of players won their appeals. So on those stats alone, chances are this ruling will hold up and JE11 will be suspended. That makes him like dozens of other players across the whole League, so I don’t quite get those who are crowing that this proves anything about the Patriots.

    Maybe somebody will remember this better than I do. I thought I read something a few months ago about the Patriots establishing some kind of testing facility of their own so that players could test things they were thinking of taking and they’d know ahead of time if the substance was a problem. Am I remembering this right?

  32. “But how can you ban a guy 4 games without saying what it is”

    ““

    They tried. I believe you called it “Deflategate”.

  33. Tylawspick6 – What are you talking about? I was agreeing with you when it comes to Deflategate. The science proves that the Patriots didn’t cheat. How does that make me “slow”?

  34. The inept and corrupt NFL cannot handle almost anything with integrity. They are a thoroughly wretched administration.

  35. RegArdless of who your team is and whether you are a Pats fan or not, one would have to wonder how often a suspension happens when an unrecognized substance is present when Roger Goodell and his unrecognizable disciplinary policies are involved.

  36. Watch for a steep decline in Brady’s play this year. Or a nagging injury that slows him down.

    With the Edelman news I believe we’ve seen the end of #Tommy as an elite NFL QB. The reason of course is Brady will be very careful to preserve his legacy especially when it comes to what he’s doing under the supervision of his little buddy Guerrero at TB12.

    That is until TB12 gets the Balco treatment. That will be soon,

  37. I’m sure Julian Edelman has taken and passed countless tests throughout his career. So why this ridiculous unsubstantiated claim that he was suspected by other NFL players? The sad reason is that other players couldn’t perform at his level and were envious of his success and talent.

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