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.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Are the owners using blood testing as a bargaining chip?

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell leaves a federal courthouse after participating in court-ordered talks regarding labor and revenue issues between the NFL and the NFL Players Association in Minneapolis, April 19, 2011. REUTERS/Eric Miller (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL CRIME LAW BUSINESS)

The New York Times is reporting that the NFL has talked to the World Anti-Doping Agency about possibly overseeing testing of players for performance-enhancing drugs if a federal appeals court forces the league to end the lockout.

That could even eventually include blood tests for human growth hormone, which have never been administered to N.F.L. players but which the league has in recent years said it wants to include in the next collective bargaining agreement, the official said.

The N.F.L. and the players union have resisted third-party administration of drug testing, the protocol and penalties of which were negotiated as part of the collective bargaining agreement.

But without an agreement in place, and with the decertified union unable to negotiate on behalf of players, the N.F.L. would be able to unilaterally impose a drug-testing program and penalties — much as it could impose rules related to the salary cap and free agency — although it could be subject to challenge by players in court. But the N.F.L. contends that without a union to provide checks and balances, a third party overseeing the program may be necessary for credibility and transparency.

Does anyone else get the sense that the NFL is trying to use blood testing (which the players have been adamantly opposed to for years) as a bargaining chip for if/when they lose in court and the lockout is lifted?

“Hi players…yes, that was a nice victory in court. Well played – you got us. Just to let you know though: WADA will be testing everyone’s blood for HGH from here on out…What’s that? Sure, we’d love to return to the bargaining tables and hammer something out. Great suggestion – we hadn’t thought of that.”

Of course, Roger Goodell has been trying to beef up the league’s testing policy for a while, so it may be a tad extreme to suggest that the owners are using WADA as a negotiating tactic. I truly believe that Goodell does want to ensure that the game is clean, so it’s not a stretch to think that blood testing has nothing to do with the labor dispute.

Still, the owners and players are in a battle and I wouldn’t put it past either side to use what they have in terms of bargaining chips. And if the players truly loathe the idea of blood testing, then it’s in the owners’ best interest to use that to their advantage.

NFL will insist on HGH testing of players

Ticket windows at Qualcomm Stadium , the home of the NFL’s San Diego Chargers, is shown in San Diego, California March 15, 2011. The antitrust suit filed by NFL players against the league will be heard on April 6 in a federal court in Minnesota, according to court documents released on Monday. The hearing is to be heard by Judge Susan Nelson with the players asking for an injunction against the lockout declared by the NFL on Saturday. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Former Lions’ linebacker Richard “Dirt” Jordan (a friend of mine whom I also worked with at WDFN in Detroit) once told me that players can’t even take cold medicine without first running it by a team doctor. So I find it a little silly that the NFL hasn’t been testing players for HGH use over the last couple of years.

Cold medicine = check with team.

HGH = have at it, hoss. Oh, but it’s frowned upon.

But that will all change if the NFL has anything to say about it. According to a report by, the league is insistent upon there being HGH testing in the next CBA. Under the late Gene Upshaw, the NFLPA has expressed resistance to blood testing and no urine test has been developed for HGH, so this report should go over well with the players and do wonders for the current labor dispute. (See you in 2012, fans.)

“We want it. We think it’s necessary,” Adolpho Birch, who runs the league’s drug-testing policies, told Marvez. “We’re going to ensure that it’s done. That’s something very important to us and the integrity of our game. We believe some of the basis for going slowly on it before has been addressed. At this point, it’s proper for it to be an active part of our program.”

Funny how the league is so concerned about the integrity of the game, yet the players are locked out and are free to do whatever they want when it comes to supplementing this offseason. As long as they properly cycle out whatever substance they’re putting into their bodies before the lockout ends and the league starts testing them again, they’re fine. (Look at me sounding like your neighborhood steroid distributor – you like that?)

If HGH testing is so important to the NFL, does it know that players aren’t being tested now? If HGH testing is so important to the NFL, why doesn’t it convince the owners to end the lockout and get back to the negotiating table so that there’s a season next year?

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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