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NFL Changes Drug Policy, More Marijuana Friendly

NFL Changes Drug Policy, More Marijuana Friendly

The NFL is a billion dollar corporation and as such moves in the bureaucratic pace of a giant conglomerate. Eight years after the last policy change the National Football League is on the verge of approving a new set of drug rules. After much debate between the players union and the owners over issues including the severity and timing of punishment for driving under the influence and the rules governing amphetamines, both sides may have come to agreement.

The new rules may have Peyton Manning throwing to Wes Welker as soon as this coming Sunday. According to policy changes posted at the NFL Players Association website, blood testing for human growth hormone, revised restrictions on marijuana use, and stricter measures for anyone caught breaching the confidentiality built into the league’s drug-testing and arbitration procedures are parts of the new policy.

The Players Union detailed other changes including the League’s treatment of amphetamine use and the appointment of arbitrators in cases where a player challenges a finding. Areas of contention between the Union and the commissioner’s office’s include particulars on drunk driving; the commissioner’s office preferred a two-game suspension for a DUI in effect upon arrest and the Union fought for suspension only upon a conviction or plea agreement.

HGH Testing is a topic the league and the NFL Players Association first agreed to as part of their 2011 labor deal. HGH has been on the banned performance-enhancing substances since then but players until now have not been tested for it. The last three years has been spent ironing out the details of the testing procedure and the testing was kept on hold during negotiations between the NFL and the union. The testing of blood for HGH is a necessity, given the weakness of laboratory detection of the drug.

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“We stood up and fought for what was right,” DeMaurice Smith, the union’s executive director, said in a written statement released by the NFLPA. “Twenty-five years ago it was NFL players that set out to make the game clean by asking for and collectively bargaining the first drug testing policy in professional sports. Today, this union and these player leaders have approved a policy that will serve the game well for generations of players to come.”

The change to the marijuana rules is the area where the NFL Players Union seemingly made the strongest gain. Marijuana, an increasingly legal drug across the country, may be popular among NFL players dealing with pain, would be most effected with the policy change. The changes include the altering of the definition of a positive test for marijuana, increasing the threshold for violations to 35 nanograms per milliliter (from the previous threshold of 15ng/ml) and the change in suspension structure.

As soon as the new policy is accepted by all parties and put into place the suspensions of Broncos receiver Wes Welker and several other players who are serving suspensions for drug offenses would be retroactively adjusted to the new rules.

That means Wes Welker could be back on the field this Sunday and repeat offender, Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon, previously issued a 16-game suspension for four violations of the policy on substances of abuse would now only serve a 10-game suspension. The NFL’s new drug policy may be a game-changer on and off the field.

photo credit: Matt McGee, WEBN-TV

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