NFL Suspends Six Players: What Is Exactly "StarCaps?"

Football Maniaxs@@FantasymaniaxsSenior Writer IDecember 4, 2008

By Derek Lofland. (One of 14 Maniaxs' writers)

The NFL decided to suspend for four games under the NFL Substance Abuse Policy the following players for using a diuretic (it can serve as a masking agent for steroids):

Deuce McAllister and defensive linemen Charles Grant and Will Smith of New Orleans;

Defensive linemen Kevin Williams and Pat Williams of Minnesota; and long snapper Bryan Pittman of Houston.  

Grady Jackson of the Atlanta Falcons was not suspended and asked for additional information in his appeal. It is not known when his grievance will be resolved.  

Furthermore, a Federal Court has now issued an injunction against the NFL from suspending the Williams "Brothers" until a hearing can be held in Federal Court to resolve the issue.  

I think it is important to understand what a diuretic does.

It is not a steroid. It does not promote muscle growth.

A diuretic is any drug that increases urination, which provides a means of forced diuresis.

Many players use it as a means of making weight clauses in their contract. It isn't a coincidence that... six of the seven guys on this list are lineman. It isn’t a coincidence that Deuce McAllister is a big NFL running back.  It is very common for NFL lineman or other bigger players to have weight clauses in their contract so that they don't allow their weight to balloon to the point where they are slow, out of shape, injured, and or ineffective.

The problem with this particular diuretic is that it contains Bumetanide, a substance that can be used as a masking agent to conceal steroid use.

Therefore it is a banned substance by the NFL and subject to a four-game suspension if it is found in a players’ system.
The players made a couple of interesting arguments.

According to the AP, the argument the players made was that the banned substance Bumetanide was not initially in the product the players were using and that when it was added to the supplement it was not listed as an ingredient in StarCaps, an over-the-counter weight-loss pill in question.

Therefore, they thought the suspension was not just.

The problem is that the league's policy states as follows:

"You and you alone are responsible for what goes into your body. Claiming that you used only legally available nutritional supplements will not help you in an appeal. ... Even if they are bought over-the-counter from a known establishment, there is currently no way to be sure that they contain the ingredients listed on the packaging or have not been tainted with prohibited substances.”  

The policy goes on to state "If you take these products, you do so AT YOUR OWN RISK! For your own health and success in the league, we strongly encourage you to avoid the use of supplements altogether, or at the very least to be extremely careful about what you choose to take."

I understand where the league is coming from with that policy.

Major League Baseball chose to ignore steroids for the better part of a decade and the result was Senator Mitchell showing up at their doorstep to conduct an investigation that has tarnished over an entire decade of baseball.

The NFL wants to take a stand against substance abuse to avoid similar embarrassment. Of all the professional leagues that testified before Congress in the steroids debacle, the NFL came away looking the cleanest. They want to keep it that way.

The NFL wants to maintain an image that illegal substances will not be tolerated in the NFL. Suspending players for 25% of the schedule goes a long way to accomplishing that. Furthermore, the NFL wants players to take supplement use seriously. They don't want to hear the "I didn't know" excuse.

What better way to show that they are serious about that by suspending star players on teams that are in the midst of a playoff run?

If the NFL only enforces banned substances against a) bad players or b) players on bad teams, the NFL doesn't have much credibility in trying to deter steroid use with its players or the public.

Understanding where both sides are coming from the problem for me is that this isn't a steroid. It's a substance that contains a masking agent. None of the players has a history of steroid use.

On the one hand, maybe they haven't tested positive for steroids, because they have been using masking agents. On the other hand, all of them are heavy players that have weight clauses in their contracts.

It is perfectly believable that these players would be trying to make weight. This isn't a 175 Lb receiver that is claiming he needed to make weight.

Why are we punishing players that most people agree were not trying to mask steroids in the interest of upholding a policy?  

While the league policy may say this is the right result, common sense doesn’t seem to agree with that.  What is the point of enforcing a policy for the sake of enforcing a policy?

Here are the three things I think everyone needs to take away from these events:

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