Should the NFL be testing for recreational drugs?

With the Sam Hurd fiasco, the NFL has a PR problem on its hands. It will get even worse if Hurd starts to sing and name NFL players as his clients for his alleged drug-dealing exploits.

With that, we’re getting the proverbial declarations that the NFL should be doing more about recreational drugs. Gary Myers takes his stab at arguing for tougher testing by the NFL. Here are some of the highlights:

As strict as the NFL is with its year-round random steroid testing program — it knocks on players’ doors in the offseason — that’s how easy it is to beat the recreational drug test. All players are tested once a year during a three-month window that opens around minicamp and closes with the training camp physical.

Sometime between May 1 and Aug. 1, players know they are going to have to pee in a bottle and their urine will be tested for cocaine, marijuana or other recreational drugs.

This is not so much a drug test as an intelligence test. How stupid does a player have to be — or how dependent on drugs must he be — to fail a test when he knows it’s coming?

Once a player passes his annual test, he is free and clear for at least the next nine months until the test the following year or if there is reasonable cause to believe he has a drug problem.

Dead giveaway that a player might have a marijuana problem: He comes in every day with blood shot eyes and sits in the meeting room with 10 bags of potato chips. White powder around his nose might indicate a cocaine problem.

So, a player not only has to be dumb to flunk the annual test, but awfully dumb or dependent to exhibit signs of drug use in the workplace.

The NFL considers steroids a competitive issue, but recreational drugs a medical issue. If a player has a problem, it tries to get him help. If he keeps flunking tests, he gets suspended. A first-time flunked steroids test gets four games. The union has blocked the NFL from starting a HGH blood-testing program.

He ends the column with this proclamation:

The NFL needs the same deterrent for recreational drugs as it has with steroids. It wouldn’t stop a player from dealing. Leave that to the feds. But it would stop players from using. Pee in the cup, boys.

He also spends time talking about other drug problems in the past like the Jamal Lewis conviction.

What we don’t get from Myers is any argument at all as to why the NFL should get tougher here. He just proclaims it, yet offers no reason, as if it should just be obvious.

For some people, it is obvious, but that’s why we have a failed War on Drugs. There’s this notion that we need to control people and stop them for doing stupid things. Good luck.

It’s perfectly rational for an employer to test for drugs in work environments where safety is a concern. We don’t want construction workers toking up or downing six packs at lunch. Same goes for airline pilots.

And, it’s logical for the NFL to test for performance enhancing drugs, as it affects the integrity of the game. The NFL understands, however, that smoking marijuana is not going to improve your 40 time. In fact, all the Cheetos you end up eating will slow you down instead.

I think the NFL has it right here. They are concerned about the health of players, so they have a loose policy on recreational drugs that gets tough when an obvious problem arises. But they really don’t care that much if football players who get the crap beat out of them every week decide to relax with a joint in the offseason. Kudos to the NFL.

And as far as PR goes, the NFL avoids PR problems by not testing so vigorously. If you get tough, then you’ll have more violations, and more needless headlines.

People are always quick to demand restrictions on the behavior of others. Does Myers have to submit to drug testing? Did he have too many beers when he wrote his column? Of course the notion of randomly testing journalists is absurd, but it’s not less absurd than the notion of testing football players.

Leave the players alone unless there’s an obvious problem.

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