You would think professional athletes in other sports might have taken a cue from the massive fallout of the 2013 Major League Baseball PED scandal, and think very carefully about choosing to take in any substance that could be suspect. In addition to facing possible suspensions, players are also subject to fines, loss in pay (sometimes in the millions of dollars when all added together!), and for lesser known players, being cut from the team completely. Yet, for football players, it seems that the League’s inability to agree on an HGH testing policy and the “lack of knowledge” about what is banned or illegal will continue to create problems like the one faced just this week by Dallas Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick.
On Tuesday, August 12, it was announced that Scandrick will be suspended for the first four games of the 2014-2015 season after testing positive for an innocent sounding drug, Molly, that’s not so innocent. The story is that while Scandrick was on vacation in Mexico, he was talked into adding something extra to his beverage. The “extra” turned out to be MDMA, which is more popularly known as Ecstasy or “Molly.” If anyone were to take a closer look at his story, they may wonder why a simple vacation cocktail, which is not illegal, wasn’t enough for a professional athlete whose career depends on his agreement with his employers, the Dallas Cowboys and the NFL, not to take illegal drugs!
Despite the fact that, on the surface, NFL football players aren’t taking the liberties that Major League Baseball players have with banned performance enhancing drugs, a recent spate of suspensions might suggest otherwise. In addition to Scandrick’s four game suspension, there’s the Miami Dolphins’ Reshad Jones, who just got handed a four game suspension for the start of the season for violating the NFL’s drug policy, as did the New York Giants’ offensive lineman Eric Herman, who also will sit out four games for the same reason.
Part of the problem, according to some, is that the NFL and the NFLPA, the National Football League’s Players Association, refuse to set down a policy for drug testing once and for all, instead, they have been dragging their feet since 2011. The point of contention there seems to be the blood testing procedure that would be required for detecting levels of Human Growth Hormone, which will not show up in a standard urine test. Also, the League and the Player’s Association have stated previously that they cannot agree to the HGH testing policy without establishing a baseline level of Human Growth Hormone, since people already have the substance in their bodies naturally, and an intelligent baseline would have to take into account variations in a player’s size and age.
So where does this leave the NFL for the season about to begin? It appears that there are more substance abuse suspensions than many would guess. Are they really just mistakes, or a lack of knowledge, as the players have claimed? Or is there more to these stories, since the players receiving suspensions have also stated that they take responsibility for the substances they put into their bodies, substances that were clearly more than just painkillers or supplements. If the current trend continues, the NFL will be facing more missed games for suspended players, and players will be losing millions of dollars in fine payments and lost salaries. But the biggest losers continue to be the fans, who just want to be entertained by the sports they love, not the media drama generated by athletes who would rather cheat than just play the game.