4 Changes NFL Must Make in Drug Testing Players
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The NFL has to implement some changes for its drug testing policies.
Mr. [Scott] Wells instantly knew what the trainer meant and was mildly annoyed. "I just had one," he said. Before moving on, Mr. [Pepper] Burruss told Mr. Wells he should be ready "between 10 and two."
When the trainer left, Mr. Wells turned to a reporter and shrugged. "Drug test," he said.
The NFL has long maintained that its drug testing program, which administers some 15,000 tests a year, is one of the toughest in North American sports. But anti-doping experts say exchanges like the one between Mr. Burruss and Mr. Wells earlier this month raise serious questions about the general effectiveness of the program.
That said, Roger Goodell and pro football need to take stronger action, but also make the NFL more transparent. Only then will skepticism decrease in a time where there's reason to have plenty of it.
Ahead, we look at what professional football can do for itself and its players regarding drug tests.
Test All Active Players Before Kickoff
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Prior to kickoff of the 2011 NFL season, there was a change for drug test.
According to the Associated Press via ESPN.com in August of 2011:
The NFL is adding game-day testing for performance-enhancing substances -- but not recreational drugs -- this season under the new collective bargaining agreement.
"The key to this testing is the randomness of it, and that every player is subject to and eligible for testing on a year-round basis, with no notice," Birch said.
Game-day is certainly a good idea.
At the same time, though, making it random isn't strict enough.
Every player that is listed on the active roster prior to kickoff of every week should get a drug test. This approach will ensure that each player does not take the risk of potentially not getting tested.
Not to mention it creates a more equal [proverbial] playing field regarding testing throughout the league.
Thoroughly Emphasize Which Substances Are Banned
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This is another step the NFL can take in assisting its players.
Plus, putting greater emphasis on what is banned simply makes everything easier.
[David] Vobora called the hotline set up for NFL players to ask whether certain products contained substances banned by the league. He researched the ingredients of supplements before he took them. He still wound up suspended for four games in 2009 for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs while he was with the St. Louis Rams.
The banned substance Vobora tested positive for was not listed among the ingredients of the product he took. That didn't matter to the NFL.
"There is an appeals process, but I'm going to be real about it," Vobora said. "There's not much of an appeals process. It's 'You're guilty' and you're going to have to serve it, regardless."
How is this process fair to a player?
Vobora took his own initiative and even used a resource provided by the NFL. Still, the guy was suspended despite trying to do the correct thing.
This is just one example of Goodell and pro football contradicting itself. Changing this area to simply becoming extensively thorough will only educate players for the betterment of the league.
As we see next, the NFL must learn from Vobora and take its own initiative.
Take the Initiative in Knowing Which Players Need Certain Medications
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Pro football doesn't possess enough wherewithal of its players.
Virgil Green of the Denver Broncos was affected by that in 2012.
According to Aaron Wilson of Scout.com back in March:
The NFL suspended Denver Broncos tight end Virgil Green for four games for him taking attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder medication without first obtaining approval from the league.
Green announced that he's now approved to take the medication, but the NFL won't be lifting the suspension.
Now yes, Green definitely should have gotten approval beforehand. But the NFL still needs to increase its own awareness of the players.
Doing so will generate a stronger bond between the league and its players. If anything, this occurrence could have easily been avoided by communication.
Obviously Green is still partially at fault.
Nevertheless, given the popularity of the NFL's brand, why would Goodell and Co. not want to have knowledge of a disorder such as Green's? Pursuing such things would only increase the NFL's brand among the players, fans and media.
In short, wanting to help the players in this regard falls on the league needing to take more action.
Make Consequences Significant as Illegal Hits
Let's get this out of the way first.
Ed Reed's "illegal" hit was clean, period.
Still, according to Jay Glazer of FOX Sports:
Ed Reed has been fined another $55,000 for hit on Victor Cruz in Sundays game vs giants. No suspension but 55k fine— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) December 28, 2012
Since the NFL has cracked down emphatically on making the game safer, drug testing needs just as much attention. Combining the elements of the aforementioned incidents with David Vobora and Virgil Green, pro football dishing out hefty fines for failed drug tests would grab even more attention.
Protecting the brand of the league in terms of first assisting its players must take precedence.
Thereafter is when pro football can enhance the penalties of a failed drug test. The end result is tougher consequences from an all-encompassed perspective.
Whether it's illegal hits, misconduct or failed tests, everything in pro football then becomes more consistent and fair.