Well, this just got interesting. On Sunday, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Seattle Seahawks cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner were facing four-game suspensions for violations of the NFL's substance abuse policy. The specific violation was not mentioned until later, when it was revealed that both players tested positive for Adderall, a stimulant prescribed to treat attention deficit disorder that's been in the NFL news a lot recently. Both players intend to appeal their pending suspensions.
On Monday night, USA Today's Mike Garafalo reported that according to a person with specific knowledge of Sherman's situation, Sherman claims that he inadvertently drank from a bottle belonging to a teammate that contained a crushed Adderall pill. Garafalo reports that per the source, the unnamed teammate had a prescription for the drug, which is legal according to the league's policy if there is a prescription.
Curtis Crabtree of Pro Football Talk reports that Sherman has denied the facts of the USA Today story in a series of texts.
Meanwhile, Browner, who was enrolled in the league's substance abuse program due to an undisclosed incident that happened when he was with the Denver Broncos in 2005, is claiming that there was an irregularity in his most recent testing, and that Browner insists that the person performing the test poured urine from one bottle into another.
Garafalo contacted Kevin Poston, Sherman's agent, and asked about the possible scenario in which his client could have accidentally ingested a banned substance. "What appears is not always the case," Poston replied. "Hopefully, when the facts come out, justice will prevail."
Peter Shaffer, Browner's agent, had a conference call with Seattle reporters following Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll's Monday press conference.
"Brandon Browner has no knowledge of how any illegal substance could have gotten into his system," Schaffer said, per Tim Booth of the Associated Press. "He is an outstanding person and a very good football player. He takes tremendous care of his body and he is very careful with what he puts into it. We're exploring all avenues to try and figure out how any substance out of the ordinary would be in his system."
Browner told the source who talked to Garafalo that there's no way he would intentionally ingest something that would put him on the wrong side of the league's substance abuse policy.
Carroll said on Monday that it was a matter between the league and his players, and that he could not comment about the specifics. But he did talk about the NFL's policy when it comes to informing and educating players about substances they need to avoid.
"The league has a whole process that they go through for the players' awareness and all of that kind of stuff, and we follow up on everything that there is and try to do our diligence to make sure everyone knows what is going on and what is to be expected in all areas," Carroll said. "The league takes a very strong stance in how to get the messages out about rules and guidelines, and we just try to follow suit as best as we can."
If Sherman and Browner are suspended, they would be the fourth and fifth Seahawks players in the last two years -- and the third in the last two weeks -- to run afoul of the league in these matters. In 2011, guard John Moffitt and offensive lineman Allen Barbre were hit with four-game suspensions each, and last week, defensive back Winston Guy was suspended four games after taking an over-the-counter medication that contained an ingredient banned by the league.
This isn't just a Seahawks matter, though. Current New England Patriots and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib, New England Patriots linebacker Jermaine Cunningham, current Buccaneers cornerback Eric Wright, New York Giants safeties Will Hill and Tyler Sash, Giants running back Andre Brown, Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Mike Neal, and Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden have all been suspended this year after testing positive for the drug.
Why is Adderall so popular among NFL players, and why do they continue to take it despite the known risk?
"It's a favorite of athletes because it works pretty well," Don Catlin, founder of the Anti-Doping Research group, told Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times in mid-October. "It's a strong stimulant and that means it enhances performance, usually of the type of performance that has to do with speed, running, or swimming. … It's like drinking 10 cups of coffee all in one sitting over an hour or two; you get really hyped up."
Catlin also implied that there's a sense one could take Adderall and skate by the rules.
"Athletes would like it because they can take it today, and might have a negative urine test tomorrow," he said.
Clearly, that's not the case. And clearly, whatever the NFL is doing to inform players of the risks, it isn't enough.
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