A federal appeals court in Minneapolis yesterday cleared the way for Vikings Pat Williams and Kevin Williams to play all season, despite the NFL’s attempts to suspend them for violating the league’s anti-doping policy.
The NFL already had said the defensive tackles could play in tomorrow’s season opener at Cleveland because their court fight over the suspensions would not be decided in time.
“It’s a big sigh of relief to know we’re going to get to play the whole season,’’ Kevin Williams said. “We were looking forward to Cleveland not knowing what the future may hold. But it’s great to get if off of our shoulders in the season and know we can deal with it in the offseason.’’
The fight isn’t over, but a three-judge panel of the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld earlier decisions from a federal district court - including one that says the remaining legal issues must be resolved in state court. The judge there has issued an injunction prohibiting the NFL from suspending the players, and he has said a state trial during the 2009 season was unlikely.
“It is putting in jeopardy a drug program that has been put in front of the entire world as being one of the highest standards in all of sports,’’ commissioner Roger Goodell said in an interview on WFAN-AM in New York. “It puts in jeopardy that players in Minnesota in any sport - this could affect other sports - are subject to a different standard than in the other 49 states. You recognize that it is a fairness question for all the athletes.’’
Goodell said the NFL was considering its next step, which could include an appeal, a trial in state court, or taking the issue to Congress.
The NFL wants to suspend the Williamses, who are not related, for four games each after they both tested positive for a banned substance during training camp in 2008.
The players are not accused of taking steroids. They acknowledge taking the over-the-counter weight loss supplement StarCaps, which did not state on the label that it contained the diuretic bumetanide. The diuretic is banned by the NFL because it can mask the presence of steroids.
Merriman was arrested after Tequila signed a citizen’s arrest warrant accusing Merriman of battery and false imprisonment. Both are felonies.
Dumanis decided not to charge Merriman after her office spent three days reviewing reports from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.
“After a thorough review of the investigation into the Sept. 6, 2009, incident at the Poway home of Shawne Merriman, our office has determined there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any crime was committed,’’ Dumanis said in a statement. “This case is now closed. No further comment will be made.’’