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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NFL not giving up on Williams Wall suspension

Despite Hennepin County District Judge Gary Larson’s ruling that the league failed to abide to state law in notifying Vikings’ defensive tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams of their positive drug test, the NFL is not giving in.

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the NFL is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Larson’s ruling so that the league can suspend the two players four games for violating its anti-drug policy.

The NFL cited the National Labor Relations Act in its filing on Thursday, saying its collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union protects its drug policy from lawsuits in state courts.

The Williamses tested positive in 2008 for a banned diuretic, bumetanide, that was not listed as an ingredient on the label for the weight-loss supplement StarCaps. The diuretic is not a steroid, but the league said it can be used as a masking agent for performance-enhancing drugs and therefore is not allowed.

The players sued to block their suspensions, saying the NFL broke Minnesota labor law in applying its drug policy. The NFL wants the Supreme Court to overturn a federal judge’s decision last year that sent the case to state court.

This is a tricky situation. If the U.S. Supreme Court overrules Larson’s decision, then it looks as if the NFL has more power than state courts. But if the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t overrule the decision, then maybe more players will look for loopholes when they fail drug tests.

Many feel as though the NFL’s drug policy is extreme, but it’s in place to ensure that players don’t cheat the game. While I would wholeheartedly agree that it’s a bit absurd for the league to force players to notify teams when they’re about to use over-the-counter cough medicine (which is actually on the NFL’s banned list), those rules are in place in effort to keep the playing field as level as possible.

In the end, I don’t think the Williams Wall will ever be suspended. I can’t imagine that the U.S. Supreme Court would side with the NFL, but then again, crazier things have happened.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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