The DeAndre Hopkins situation is a symptom of a deeper problem. And the problem comes from the inability of the NFL and NFL Players Association to infuse public confidence into the PED policy by sharing more details regarding the circumstances surrounding a positive test and ensuing suspension.
As it stands, the league announces the consequences of a positive test — a six-game suspension for a first offense. The league provides no further details.
The NFL and NFLPA are authorized to disclose more information “to maintain confidence in the credibility of the Policy and Policy Personnel or to correct inaccurate public claims made by that Player or his representatives about the operation of the Policy, discipline, underlying facts or appeals process.” But that apparently doesn’t stop a player like Hopkins (or mostly every other player who ever has tested positive) from claiming that he did not intentionally violate the policy and/or that the positive test resulted from a spiked supplement.
In situations like that, the league and the union should at least be able to issue a clear and unequivocal reminder that players are responsible for whatever is in their system, and that the NFL and NFLPA jointly approve supplements that are clean. It also would be useful to disclose the substance ingested and the amount detected.
As it stands, players can launch a P.R. campaign that is unrebutted as long as it doesn’t include accurate claims. If neither the league nor the union know how a player ended up ingesting a banned substances, the NFL and NFLPA need to do something to counter the predictable claim that the player who tests positive didn’t knowingly ingest a PED.
Maybe nothing the NFL and/or NFLPA can say will disprove that claim. Maybe the league and union need to agree that such claims simply won’t be made. Regardless, it’s far too easy for any and every player who tests positive to huff and puff and promise to blow down the house of whoever slipped him a PED mickey. Such claims undermine the entire PED policy, creating the impression that the system ensnares players who didn’t deliberately cheat — and thus never catches those who do.