Marvez: Starcaps case a blow to NFL drug policy

Now that Charles Grant, Will Smith, Kevin Williams and Pat Williams all escaped suspensions, Alex Marvez of FOX writes that the Starcaps case is a blow to the integrity of the NFL drug policy.

Not even the thousands of NFL steroid tests administered each year are enough to catch all the cheaters. For all we know, some players are taking “exotic” boosters either undetectable or unknown through testing. The steroid nicknamed “The Clear” was one of those once-untraceable designer drugs that surfaced earlier this decade in baseball and football.

Human growth hormone use is an even bigger problem. The only reliable testing method involves the drawing of blood, which the NFLPA will not allow. A player hell-bent on using HGH for a physical edge despite potential long-term health effects can get away with it. You’d be naïve to think that isn’t happening.

That’s the ultimate goal the NFL and NFLPA should share — catching the cheaters who threaten to undermine the game’s credibility like Barry Bonds and Co. did in Major League Baseball. Protecting athletes who want a level playing field is even more important. The NFLPA agreed to drug testing in the late 1980s after late union chief Gene Upshaw was approached by players who didn’t want to take the health risks inherent with steroid use to compete against their peers.

Here’s hoping the NFL and NFLPA can compromise and work through their differences to achieve those ends. That would be the only positive result to come out of the Starcaps spectacle that has taken some of the shine off a once-respected NFL drug testing program.

As the article suggests, if the NFL and NFLPA can’t work together, then the league will never be able to have a full chokehold on its drug testing policy. The NFLPA’s sole purpose is to protect the interest of the players. But in doing that, it sometimes impedes the progress the league is trying to make in keep performance-enhancing drugs out of the game.

As the NFL heads for an un-capped 2010 season, it’s clear that the league and the NFLPA can’t get on the same page in regards to big issues like contracts and drugs. It’s too bad, because it’s the fans who suffer the most – not the players, owners or coaches.

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