A federal judge dismissed the claims of five NFL players who had been suspended last season for use of a banned diuretic in the diet supplement StarCaps. Among the five are four starting defensive linemen for the Vikings and Saints, including Pro Bowl defensive tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams(notes) of Minnesota and starting defensive ends Charles Grant(notes) and Will Smith(notes) of New Orleans.
All four are expected to sit the first four games of next season without pay. Their suspensions had been blocked last season while U.S. district judge Paul Magnuson heard arguments from the league and the NFL Players Association.
"We are pleased that after a careful review of the record the court has upheld the suspensions of the players in this case,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello wrote in an email Saturday morning. The decision strongly supports the NFL program on performance enhancing substances that protects the health and safety of NFL players and the integrity of our game."
The league had suspended the four defensive linemen and then-Saints running back Deuce McAllister(notes) last season after they tested positive for the diuretic Bumetanide, which flushes water from the body and is considered a masking agent for steroids. McAllister is currently unsigned, but also faces a four-game suspension.
Attorney David Cornwell argued on the players’ behalf that the league failed to warn the players about the presence of Bumetanide in StarCaps even though the league had known for two years that StarCaps contained the banned substance.
The issue created a significant debate about the role of the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
A message to NFLPA attorney Jeff Kessler, who argued the case in federal court, was not immediately returned.
The main issue regarding StarCaps is that the NFL was aware as far back as 2006 that the supplement contained Bumetanide. However, the league only followed minimal procedure in making players aware of the banned (and sometime dangerous) substance in the supplement.
While ruling in the NFL's favor, Magnuson chastised the league for not being more forthcoming.
"There is no doubt that it would have been preferable for the NFL to communicate with players specifically about the presence of bumetanide in StarCaps," Magnuson wrote in his judgment. "The NFL's failure to do so is baffling, but it is not a breach of the NFL's duties to its players."