INDIANAPOLIS — No one outside the NFL office knows whether there truly was an outbreak of Adderall abuse last season among players, including three Patriots. Under its steroid policy, the NFL is powerless to disclose the true nature of a violation.
But the league continues to want that to change, according to Adolpho Birch, the senior vice president of law and labor policy.
“One of the features of the [Major League Baseball] appeals system that we have proposed from the beginning has been to be able to disclose the substance that formed the basis of the violation,” Birch said on Thursday. “It is largely for that point, to make sure that everybody is clear on what that substance was so that there is no misinformation, and ability to go behind and sort of minimize what the nature of an individual’s violation is.
“We think that’s very important, not only for accuracy but also to help other players understand the real types of substances that potentially could lead to a positive result. And so we think from an educational standpoint, it’s important that everyone understands exactly what substances were involved.”
The players’ union, which has said it would take the MLB drug policy today, including HGH testing, has balked at disclosures for privacy reasons.
The NFL had an increase of in-season violations of its steroid policy this past season, and at least seven players said, either publicly or through media reports, that the amphetamine Adderall was to blame.
Brandon Spikes (in 2010), Jermaine Cunningham, Brandon Bolden, and Aqib Talib (while with the Buccaneers) were Patriots who claimed the use of Adderall, which treats attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, was the reason for positive test results, and subsequent four-game suspension.
But no one knows for sure. The NFL’s steroid policy also includes hormones, estrogen blockers, diuretics, and stimulants such as amphetamines (as well as over-the-counter cold medicines containing ephedrine and pseudoephedrine).
So, after a period when NFL players claimed taking cough medicine caused their violations, they seemed to move on to Adderall, which is allowed with permission from the league medical staff.
Better to say you forgot to get a prescription than to admit you were caught using steroids.
“I hear a lot of discussion about transparency and how important that is, but when it comes to issues like this or, for example, being able to correct obvious misrepresentations that undermine the effectiveness of a policy, that’s another feature of the MLB policy that we have pushed for, for a number of years now,” Birch said. “Because in our view it undermines the policy itself when misrepresentations can be made without them being corrected.”
The league is clearly frustrated with the players’ union stalling over a revamping of the drug policy, including adding HGH testing.
“It’s hard to understand what it is about the [appeals] system that they’re saying they need that we have not made a proposal on,” Birch said. “It is clear that in response to the recent set of issues raised, we put forward a proposal that addressed every one of the stated concerns that they had concerning the appeals process.
“There is absolutely no reason for this to have taken this long and us not to have testing implemented. We should have been more than a year into this by now . . . It’s just enough. We’ve been through this for two years now.”
Dolphins in pursuit
The Dolphins, who have $45 million in cap space and nine picks in the upcoming draft, have been looking up at the Patriots in the AFC East standings for most of the last decade.
General manager Jeff Ireland knows there’s a gap, and he’s working to close it.
“They’ve won the division quite a bit, so we have to close that gap,” Ireland said. “We plan to do our best job, put our best foot forward getting that done this offseason. Now, whether we can completely close the gap, we’ve got to get back on the field and close the gap on the field.”
The Dolphins have several free agents, including running back Reggie Bush, wide receiver Brian Hartline, cornerback Sean Smith, and defensive tackle Randy Starks, and Ireland said “there’s certainly a likelihood” the team will be using its franchise tag.
Standing by trade
Talib was dealt to the Patriots along with a seventh-round pick at last season’s trading deadline, with Tampa Bay getting a fourth-round pick in return.
Greg Schiano, a friend of Bill Belichick’s who will be entering his second season as Tampa Bay’s coach, still feels good about the trade.
“I think any time in the draft you have picks, you have some ammunition to do things, whether you pick at that spot or you move around with those picks,” Schiano said. “That was something that was very helpful to us last year, being able to move up and get [running back] Doug Martin, so to have some ammunition, I think, is critical.”
Schiano wasn’t willing to say much about Talib.
“I can’t comment from the Patriots’ perspective and I really can’t comment on Talib since he’s under contract with another club,” Schiano said. “But when Talib was with the Bucs, I enjoyed coaching him, he did the things we asked. I’m not naive, there were some things in his past, but there was nothing more than I said at the time [of the trade].”
Schiano also clarified a statement he made at the end of the season, when he said he wanted competition at every position. That was taken as a knock against quarterback Josh Freeman.
“Josh Freeman is our quarterback,” Schiano said. “And I believe with Josh Freeman we’ll be able to accomplish our goals. That’s my belief and our organization’s belief.”
There was at least one question Vikings GM Rick Spielman was going to be asked on Thursday: Will Percy Harvin be traded?
“As I’ve stated earlier, we have no intent to trade Percy Harvin,” said Spielman. “Anything related to his contract or any discussion will all be kept internally.
“I think everybody understands what type of player Percy Harvin is. He’s a dynamic player, not only on offense but also what he brings us as a kickoff returner.”
Harvin will be entering the final season of his five-year rookie deal, and there have been rumors for some time that he could be moved.
New England has often been mentioned as a potential landing place. Belichick liked Harvin a great deal when he was coming out of Florida (the Patriots went on to draft his teammates Aaron Hernandez, Spikes, and Cunningham a year later), envisioning him as a slot receiver and kickoff return threat.
However, even if Harvin was available, the Patriots are low on draft picks this year after trades for Talib, Chad Ochocinco, and Albert Haynesworth.