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NFL wants to disclose specifics of steroid violations

Posted by Greg A. Bedard  February 21, 2013 03:57 PM

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INDIANAPOLIS -- No one outside the NFL office knows whether or not there was truly 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 NFL continues to want that to change, according to senior vice president of law and labor policy Adolpho Birch.

"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. "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 NFLPA, which has said it would take the MLB drug policy today, including HGH testing, has balked at disclosures for privacy reasons.

"The union has consistently rejected that," Birch said. "And so that would be another feature of the MLB policy that they said they’d take today that they apparently don’t want today."

The NFL saw an increase of in-season violations of its steroid policy last season, and at least seven players said the amphetamine Adderall was to blame either publicly or through media reports.

Brandon Spikes, Jermaine Cunningham, Brandon Bolden and Aqib Talib (while with the Buccaneers) were Patriots that claimed the use of Adderall, which treats ADHD, was the reason for their four-game suspensions the past three seasons.

But no one really knows that for sure. The NFL's anabolic steroid includes everything from steroids, hormones, estrogen blockers, diuretics and stimulants like amphetamines (and also over-the-counter cold medicines containing ephedrine and pseudo-ephedrine).

So after a period of time when NFL players claimed taking cough medicine caused their violation, they seemed to move on to Adderall, which is allowed with a permission from the league medical staff.

Better to say you forgot to get a prescription than to admit you were caught using steroids.

And the NFL has been powerless to counter that. So unlike in Major League Baseball, where PED violations are detailed and the abusers are shamed and lose things such as endorsement contracts, NFL players can use steroids to bulk up, and even if they're caught, continue to play without much punishment outside of suspension.

Birch admitted that, at least in some cases, players haven't been truthful about their violations.

"I think to know what the basis of the violation is important for the public," Birch said Thursday at the scouting combine. "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. Because in our view it undermines the policy itself when misrepresentations can be made without them being corrected.

"Because we have to make sure that the people understand and that those that have interest in our game, understand what the policy did, what the actors under the policy did and how they performed their jobs or what the testing found, things that restore the confidence in how this policy is being put together and how the people that are responsible for administering it are performing their jobs."

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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