Performance enhancing drugs also referred to as PEDs, have been a major issue for professional athletes in all fields. The policies designed to crack down on both PED and recreational drug uses have been under a lot of review in the NFL after a lot of players were put on suspension for their use during the off season. Most recently to be affected by the old policy of off season usage penalties was Bronco’s wide receiver Wes Walker.
Details about Walker’s case and how they are important.
He failed a random drug test and was placed on a 4 game ban that would last until October 6th. It was unclear at first what PED or recreational drug he was found to be taking and the accusations range from the street drug known as “Molly” to the prescription amphetamine known as Adderall. However, later details revealed it was most likely Adderall. In a press release he did not address what he had taken and said he did nothing wrong. He instead focused his attention towards the policies he felt were out dated, poorly written and unevenly enforced. His opinions have not gone unheard and for weeks the NFL and NFLPA had been working towards a revision of the rules.
The new changes to the PED and recreational drug use policy.
Under the old policy failing a test, any time of year, meant an automatic 4 game suspension. However, under the new policy that is no longer the case. If a player tests positive during the off season, for example, they will be remanded to substance abuse programs. If the player tests positive during the game season, they will be subject to suspensions and possible bans depending on the number of offenses.
First offense can result in up a 6 game suspension without pay.
Second offense will result in a 10 game suspension without pay.
Third offense it a flat 2 year ban from the game.
They will also be enforcing old rules that have been laxly adhered to regarding Human Growth Hormones or HGH. Arbitration will also now be conducted by a neutral third party. They will hear evidence and review test results, as well as debate the proposed bans and suspensions. Additional conditions of the the new policy are:
If a player tests positive for anabolic steroids such as, oral steroids Dianabol, Winstrol, Anavar and Anadrol, or stimulants, HGH or any other banned substance it is a minimal 4 game suspension without pay.
Using a masking chemical or diuretic to obscure test results is a fined with a 2 game suspension and no pay.
If adequate evidence is provided that a player attempted to alter the test results it will be an automatic 6 game ban without pay.
To expedite the process, appeals will be handled for swiftly now for players who have a questionable drug test result and are relegated to the disciplinary board.
How these new policies affect the players.
In addiction to a new set of policies regarding positive testing for PED and recreational drugs, all players will be screened for HGH as well. Human Growth Hormone has been a controversial therapy and while its been on the banned list, its use is still widely suspected among athletes. It has always been a part of regulations to test for the use of HGH, but it is one that the actual testing for has been neglected, until now. The addition of enforcement of testing for it will mean potentially more incidents of failed tests being brought for review.
The implementation of the new policies have also meant that previously suspended players will be allowed to return to the field next month, as their penalties have been reduced or cleared. Wes Walker is among the players returning earlier than expected, and he made positive statements about seeing the changes actually happen. Other players, such as Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Browns and LaVon Brazill, former Colts receiver for Indiana, both had year long suspension cut to just 10 games instead of a full year.
Outlook for the NFL with the new changes.
The revisions have long been over due in the opinion of many professional athletes in the NFL, however with the changes will come a new era of potential scandal. The problem that is not addressed is that only players caught using drugs in the off season are being required to seek therapy. While the new penalty system and enforced regulation of testing for more drugs will help weed out problems, it does not focus on the heart of the problem. While most agree that the reforms are a great step in the right direction, it is still not enough to meet the goal of a drug free playing field. If the NFL and NFLPA cannot enforce more requirements that involve correcting the problem behind failed tests, then it will be up to the team owners and coaches to do so.