NFL substance abuse policy doesn’t measure up
The Daily News introduces the Anonymous Athlete, a column about the secret life of professional athletes. This week our NFL veteran says league’s substance abuse policy only fights half the battle.
Springtime in the NFL means a few things for players. First, we’re training to get ready for minicamps. Two: Our teams are bringing in rookies and free agents. And three: Players have to take a break from their favorite street drug of choice to avoid getting put in the NFL Drug program.
It’s only for a few months, because while the NFL is hard on guys like Brian Cushing(notes) (Editor’s note: The Houston Texans linebacker and reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year recently tested positive for a banned substance and will miss four games this season), it’s easy on players who use street drugs.
The hypocrisy of the NFL is that the league goes to extreme measures to make sure we’re not using PEDs – which, if used correctly and not abused, could prolong our careers. But the NFL has completely dropped the ball when it comes to street drugs. The NFL doesn’t want so-called “cheaters” – players being faster, healthier and playing longer. So they settle for a bunch of gifted junkies.
There are two drug tests in the NFL. First, there’s the random performance enhancer test. This can occur at any time throughout the season, on Mondays, Wednesdays or Thursdays. We have to produce a valid urine sample under the watchful eye of an independent company. What’s a valid sample? It means the urine can’t be too clear or too yellow (they test PH levels before sending samples off to the lab), and the sample has to be given before practice. The cup has to be filled to the correct height. During the offseason, the NFL can also collect random samples anytime, anywhere: With 24 hours notice, they can have someone at your mom’s house in any town or state in the USA.
But street drugs? As long as we’re not repeat offenders in the NFL’s substance abuse program, we get one test and one test only. So every team has a few guys shooting up something: Prescription pills, marijuana, crack, cocaine, meth, pretty much any drug someone can pick up on a street corner is fair game for most players during the football season.
Pretty remarkable what a select few of us individuals can do when you think about it. Marijuana every morning – even a line or two before games. How about two Percocet, one Vicodin? Want a team doctor to give you a shot of Toradol, a powerful painkiller administered via needle that blocks pain receptors, lasts two days and (the best part) is pretty trippy to play on? No problem.
While the NFL is chasing down those PED “cheaters,” the real losers only need to cut back on drug use for about two months, in May and June. We’re warned at the very first meeting of May minicamp/OTAs by the head athletic trainer: “Annuals are this week … If you don’t get tested this week, you will be tested in June.” That kind of behavior almost condones the use of street drugs!
The whole thing is a joke. When players fail a test, other players say, “What an idiot … He couldn’t stop for a month?”
I know guys who (almost) silently pray to get tested in May. The longer they’re without, the closer they come to practically screaming, “Test me now! I need to smoke!”
The NFL’s substance abuse policy leaves the door wide open to abuse.