Last month, Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid posted a photo of a note in his post-game locker, saying he’d been chosen to submit a sample for drug testing.
It was the seventh time in the 11 weeks he’d been with Carolina that he’d been tested. Reid was convinced it wasn’t random, but targeted, a small way for the league to harass him.
Well, the NFL investigated itself and – surprise! – found itself not guilty.
‘No evidence of targeting’
The NFL and NFL Players Association sent out a statement on Wednesday morning saying that Reid’s tests were random:
“We take any claim questioning the integrity of our collectively bargained performance enhancing drug policy seriously. We asked the independent administrator of the policy to review and produce a report on the claims of targeting. A copy of this report, which contains personal and confidential testing information, has been provided to Eric Reid.
“We will not breach any player’s confidentiality, but can confirm that the report documents the dates he was randomly selected for testing and the actual dates of the drug tests. The report also demonstrates that Mr. Reid’s tests were randomly generated via computer algorithm and that his selection for testing was normal when compared with the number of tests players were randomly selected for throughout the league during the time that he was on an active roster. There is no evidence of targeting or any other impropriety with respect to his selection for testing.”
About two hours after that statement, saying a player’s confidentiality wouldn’t be breached, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweeted that a source told him Reid wasn’t tested as many times as he’d claimed, effectively saying the league believes Reid lied.
Reid had to take a drug test when he first signed with the Panthers as standard procedure; after that, however, 10 players per week per roster are supposed to be randomly selected to submit samples.
The Panthers had 72 players on the roster eligible for testing. For Reid to have been chosen by the computer six times in 11 weeks works out to a 0.17 chance, or 1-in-588. He had a better chance of correctly guessing a coin flip nine times in a row.
What of the algorithm?
Not answered in the statement, and not likely to be looked into, is the algorithm used to generate the testing list each week.
It’s fair to ask questions like: who has access to the rosters and algorithm? Who generates the testing list? Is the algorithm ever reviewed or updated? Is the randomizer run more than once in an effort to get the “right” names on the list?
Reid isn’t the only player who can creditably question the “randomness” of the testing – also last month, Atlanta Falcons punter Matt Bosher leveled Carolina’s Kenjon Barner on a kickoff, and after the game, he was drug tested.
Bosher isn’t the only player, particularly among kickers, who has experienced the same thing: make a big play in the game, go into the locker room and find a demand for a sample.