The place you must begin with the Josh Gordon sample-A/sample-B, pot/not pot, maybe-he-failed-a-drug-test/maybe-he-didn't/maybe-an-alien-took-the-test-for-him/maybe-it-was-secondhand-smoke issue is personal responsibility.
"The cornerstone of our policy," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told Bleacher Report, "is you are responsible for what's in your body."
You are responsible for what's in your body.
The fact Gordon had marijuana in his system isn't disputed. What's disputed is the amount. A source close to Gordon confirmed that his B-sample was below the NFL's threshold. What the person said was that the low amount was likely due to secondhand smoke.
There are people in the NFL who chuckle every time they hear the secondhand-smoke defense. It's possible that the B-sample/pee-sample would come up positive for the good stuff because of secondhand smoke, but that isn't really the question, is it? The question is, what was Gordon doing around secondhand smoke in the first place?
It's interesting to watch Browns fans, many on my Twitter timeline, defend Gordon like he's a Minuteman at the Battle of Lexington. Gordon isn't a hero fighting the mighty NFL; he likes to smoke some. That's it. That's fine and that's OK. Some of my best friends smoke a little. Some smoke a lot. Just remember one thing about Gordon…actually, two things.
He was suspended by Baylor in 2010 after he and a teammate fell asleep in front of a Taco Bell. Police found marijuana in the car. Let he who has not fallen asleep in front of a Taco Bell cast the first nachos bellgrande.
The following year, Gordon was suspended indefinitely from Baylor for failing a drug test. In 2013, Gordon was suspended two games in the NFL for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.
So this isn't a guy fighting The Man; this is a guy who likes to buy from The Man.
What's been lost in this argument among B-samples and marijuana levels and scientific thresholds is that simple fact: You are responsible for what's in your body.
Based on Gordon's past, it's highly likely he was hanging around friends who smoke pot, like back at Baylor. If he was in a room with some dudes who were about to smoke, he should have left. If he was in a car with some dudes who were about to smoke, he should have told them to take his ass home immediately. If he was at a Taco Bell again, order the food, not the pot.
Maybe he did try to avoid the situation and ended up with secondhand pot in his system anyway, but it's more likely he was hanging around some guys he shouldn't have been around, and that is the bigger issue when it comes to Gordon. His choices.
Gordon has to realize something and realize it quickly: In just a few years, he has the potential to be the best receiver in football. He's that good. He led football last year with 1,646 receiving yards, and he didn't exactly have Peyton Manning throwing to him. Gordon could make $30 or $40 million in guaranteed money over the entirety of his career. Maybe more.
|Josh Gordon Stats|
That kind of cash is worth trimming the fat from his friend circle and social life, but he doesn't seem to be wiling to do that. On July 5, Gordon was arrested for driving while impaired. Again, this is no hero fighting the system.
Now, there's no question the league's policy on marijuana needs to be changed. The NFL's testing standard is 15 nanograms per milliliter. The World Anti-Doping Agency's standards are used by various international sports, including the Olympics, and that threshold is 150, 10 times higher than the NFL's. The military's is 50.
The NFL should adapt WADA's standards.
"Absolutely and totally agree," said Bleacher Report's medical expert, Will Carroll. "When WADA changed their standard, the NFL should have followed, but this is in part because they don't simply follow the WADA list or procedures the way that MLB does. The NFL has always gone its own way, setting up procedures that are far too lax on one side and far too draconian on the other. Worse, it's made things very confusing for the players and the fans.
"If the standard is that we want the drugs out of the game, then the NFL is failing. If the standard is that we want the game to be trusted, the NFL is doing amazingly well. Despite 350-pound men running 4.4 40s, any great feat isn't greeted with the same steroid doubt that everything in baseball is. You'd think that seeing how (several recently retired NFL players) dropping weight quickly might be a sign. When the same happened to Barry Bonds, well...
"It's easy to say that the NFL should simply follow the WADA lists and standards, but there is a slippery slope there. Congress will occasionally call commissioner Roger Goodell on the carpet or suggest an independent drug-testing program, something that no professional sport has. Much of this is simply the mistrust between the owners and players; they'll never reopen their drug list the way baseball has time and again since 2004. This time, it's costing them."
An NFL source responded this way: "Gordon's issue has to do with the workplace drug-testing program the NFL possesses, like thousands of companies. WADA's testing program is for performing-enhancing drugs."
They are not terribly concerned about pot. No one smokes pot to help them run faster. The NFL doesn't test for pot in its steroids program. It tests for it once a year in the substance-abuse program (workplace drug testing). Unless a player is in the substance-abuse program, he is tested for pot once a year.
Greg Aiello also wanted to make it clear the NFL isn't interested in solely busting pot smokers.
"We're talking about our substance-abuse program," he said, "as in abusing substances, as in addiction, as in a serious medical condition, as in helping players who have such a problem. It's not about trying to catch people smoking pot so we can punish them. It's about having a program in place to assist individuals with substance-abuse problems."
So think about that: The NFL's drug-testing policy is tough if you're in the program, but ridiculously easy if you're not.
The solution: Don't get in the program.
Again, I think the NFL should allow players medicinal use of pot, but those aren't the league's rules. So if you're Gordon, make your millions, your tens of millions, play a decade, then when you're out of the game, move to Colorado and smoke all the pot you want.
But for now, for right now, Gordon has to do something he hasn't done, it seems, for much of his adult life.
Be a grownup and take responsibility for his actions, and what goes in his body.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.