New NFL CBA would eliminate suspensions for positive drug tests, marijuana included

If the proposed NFL collective bargaining agreement is approved by players, it will include a dramatic shift in the league’s drug-testing policy.

Players will still be tested for substances of abuse. But they won’t be suspended. Not for the first positive test. Not for the fourth. This includes every substance of abuse the league tests for, from opioids to marijuana. It does not pertain to performance-enhancing drugs.

This is according to the league’s policy and program on substances of abuse that would be included in the proposed CBA.

How the NFL would punish violators

According to the policy, first-time violators in Stage 2 of the league’s substance-abuse program would be subject to a fine of a half week’s salary. Players who fail a drug test while in Stage 1 and don’t comply with the league’s treatment plan or are “deemed to require specific clinical intervention and/or treatment” can be moved into Stage 2.

Players in Stage 2 are subject to random, unannounced testing.

Repeat violators of the NFL's substance abuse policy would not be subject to suspension under the proposed CBA. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Repeat violators of the NFL's substance-abuse policy would not be subject to suspension under the proposed CBA. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

A second violation of a player in Stage 2 would result in the loss of a full week’s salary. A third violation would cost a player two weeks’ salary. A fourth and every subsequent violation would cost a player three weeks’ salary.

So testing positive would still come with a hefty penalty. Players just wouldn’t be subject to missing time.

Fine breakdown

Suspensions are still in play for repeat offenders who fail to cooperate with drug-testing procedures. Here’s the full breakdown of relevant fines and suspensions related to drug testing in the new policy.


What led to this

Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson reported in January that the new CBA would include changes to the drug policy. These new proposed punishments constitute those changes on the drug-testing front. Whether the idea of docking paychecks while still expecting players to play constitutes a win is up for interpretation.

Alleged drug use and positive tests have played a role in stunting the careers of multiple NFL players like Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory. Gregory has reportedly tested positive for substances seven times, with his latest reported positive test for marijuana occurring as he served a one-year suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.

Gregory has played in just 28 games since the Cowboys drafted the Nebraska pass rusher in 2015.

As legal marijuana continues to expand, advocates have pointed to the drug as a safer alternative to prescription opioids as players manage their pain from playing football.

In addition to marijuana and opioids, the new policy would subject players to testing for cocaine, synthetic marijuana, amphetamines, MDMA and alcohol if a player’s treatment plan forbids him from consuming alcohol.

(H/T Pro Football Talk)

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