Court of Appeals sides with NFL – Williams Wall may yet be suspended

Breaking news on the story that will never die: The Minnesota State Court of Appeals has sided with the NFL in the 2008 StarCaps case against Vikings’ defensive tackle Kevin Williams.

The other players that were impacted by the ruling were Pat Williams, Will Smith, Charles Grant and Grady Jackson. The latter two players are out of football and Pat Williams is a free agent. This means Kevin Williams and Smith could be on the reserve/suspended list for the first four games in 2011 (assuming there even is a season, that is).

StarCaps was a dietary supplement the players took that is banned under the league’s substance abuse policy. The supplement can be used as a masking agent for steroid use, which is obviously what the NFL was most concerned with. Of course, cough drops are probably banned under the league’s substance abuse policy, so what isn’t the NFL concerned with? (Not that I’m complaining about the league wanting to be drug-free.)

This has to be one of the most annoying stories in sports and here’s hoping that it finally has an ending. It would be nice if the league were just as motivated and relentless in its efforts to sign a new CBA deal as it is trying to suspend these four players.

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Vikings’ Williams Wall and Saints’ Grant and Smith expected to be suspended four games

According to a report by Yahoo Sports, a federal judge has ruled that the NFL can suspend the five players that took StarCaps last season. The five players include Pat Williams and Kevin Williams of Minnesota, Charles Grant and Will Smith of New Orleans, and free agent Deuce McAllister.

A federal judge dismissed the claims of five NFL players who had been suspended last season for use of a banned diuretic in the diet supplement StarCaps. Among the five are four starting defensive linemen for the Vikings and Saints, including Pro Bowl defensive tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams(notes) of Minnesota and starting defensive ends Charles Grant(notes) and Will Smith(notes) of New Orleans.

All four are expected to sit the first four games of next season without pay. Their suspensions had been blocked last season while U.S. district judge Paul Magnuson heard arguments from the league and the NFL Players Association.

The league had suspended the four defensive linemen and then-Saints running back Deuce McAllister(notes) last season after they tested positive for the diuretic Bumetanide, which flushes water from the body and is considered a masking agent for steroids. McAllister is currently unsigned, but also faces a four-game suspension.

This is a massive blow for the Vikings and Saints. Minnesota loses the backbone of its defense, while New Orleans loses its two best pass rushers. A four game suspension only amounts to a fourth of the season, but it’s still enough to have a ripple effect that could carry throughout the rest of the year, especially if one (or both) of the teams starts 1-3 or 0-4.

Perhaps the only good news for both teams is that they now have an entire summer and preseason to prepare for not having these players at the start of the season.

Vikings receive huge boost, Pat and Kevin Williams to play Sunday

The Minnesota Vikings’ defensive line will have their two key run-stuffers this week against the winless Detroit Lions.

A federal judge has blocked the NFL from suspending five players for violating the league’s anti-doping policy.

U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson said today he needed more time to consider the case after hearing several hours of arguments from the league and the NFL Players Association.

Kevin Williams and Pat Williams of the Minnesota Vikings, and Charles Grant, Deuce McAllister and Will Smith of the New Orleans Saints all were suspended this week for four games. They tested positive for a banned diuretic in the dietary supplement StarCaps.

The union has argued the NFL didn’t properly inform players about the substance. The NFL’s attorneys argued that claim, and others, had been considered and rejected in a process set out by the league’s collective bargaining agreement.

The Vikings will play the Lions on Sunday at Ford Field.

This obviously great news for the Vikings now, but what happens if the league’s suspension upholds next week? Then the players still have to miss four games and that could spill over into the playoffs if Minnesota makes the postseason. This situation is still very dangerous for the Vikes.

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Ruling on Vikings’ DTs coming Friday

Kevin and Pat Williams should know whether or not they’re playing Sunday in Detroit by Friday.

Pat WilliamsTwo separate actions regarding the playing status of the two Pro Bowl defensive tackles, who were suspended four games by the NFL on Tuesday for using a banned diuretic, are on the docket for a 10:30 a.m. hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson.

The NFL seeks to dissolve a temporary restraining order obtained Wednesday by the Williamses that allows them to play.

That suit was filed on behalf of the Williamses, who are not related, and New Orleans Saints players Charles Grant, Deuce McAllister and Will Smith. The five players took a weight-loss supplement called StarCaps. The supplement contained the banned product bumetanide, which was not listed as an ingredient. The players claim the league has known about the presence of bumetanide in StarCaps since 2006 and failed to warn its players.

The NFL, which maintains a list of approved products, has steadfastly claimed it is not obligated to issue warnings about specific products that are not on that list.

The Williamses practiced with the Vikings on Thursday but were not available for comment.

I’m not a lawyer, but these players seem to have a viable argument. If the league wants to ban certain substances, shouldn’t it go out of its way to warn players about products that could get them suspended? If they already have a list of approved products, why not have another list of unapproved substances or any products that could have banned substances in them?

It seems to me that if you really want to ensure that players aren’t using performance-enhancing drugs (or weight loss substances, etc.), than you should go out of your way to make sure that those players know exactly what is and isn’t allowed. On the flip side, players should know what they’re putting into their bodies. And if they’re unsure, the league has to have people in place to ask questions. This whole thing is a mess and unfortunately in the Vikings’ sake, it could cost them the playoffs.

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NFLPA to file lawsuit on behalf of suspended players

If you thought the suspensions issued to six NFL players on Tuesday would be carried out in a quiet, swift manner – think again. The NFLPA will file a lawsuit Thursday to overturn all of the suspensions in this case.

The basis for the union’s action is founded on many of the same arguments that resulted in a temporary restraining order issued in a Minneapolis state district court on Wednesday that will allow Minnesota Vikings defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams to return to the team after they were suspended for a mandatory four games in Tuesday’s action.

The NFLPA’s suit may seek retroactive pay for any player who already as served a suspension in which StarCaps was the product in question. The union, as Williams’ legal team argued Wednesday in court, will cite that the NFL improperly administered the policy for steroids and performance-enhancing drugs by failing to notify players that it had specific knowledge since late 2006 that StarCaps contained the banned diuretic.

The legal brief filed on behalf of Kevin and Pat Williams also claimed that a politically charged climate contributed to the league’s negligent action.

This thing is about to get very messy and in the case of Kevin and Pat Williams, they might still be able to play if a judge rules in their favor.

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