Relaxed substance-abuse policy won’t automatically reinstate banished players

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The new CBA (if it’s adopted) dramatically relaxes the substance-abuse policy, ending all suspensions for positive tests and tying one-year banishments only to seven separate failures to cooperate with testing or to comply with the terms of a clinical treatment program. That would seem to be good news for players who currently are banished for positive drug tests.

The new substance-abuse policy is silent on that point, however. And the new CBA says nothing about, for example, the potential no-questions-asked, clean-slate reinstatement of players like John Gordon (pictured), Martavis Bryant, and Randy Gregory. Per a league source, those players will be required to go through the usual and normal reinstatement procedures.

Those procedures don’t change under the new labor deal. The Commissioner still has “sole discretion” to determine whether a player is reinstated. The Commissioner still has no deadline for making a decision.

Also, despite the very high bar for banishment under the new policy, the reinstatement procedures make it clear that “immediate rescission of reinstatement” may occur for “subsequent violations” of the policy, including presumably any and all positive tests.

Thus, although the new policy creates a very new situation for players who currently aren’t under suspension, the players who currently are banished may realize no benefit whatsoever, either as it relates to getting back in or as it relates to staying back in. While the Commissioner may indeed exercise a greater degree of lenience given the new substance-abuse policy, nothing requires him to do anything than whatever he chooses to do when it comes to players who currently are serving indefinite suspensions under the substance-abuse policy.