Doping in the NFL and What is Being Done

Mandatory Photo Credit: San Diego Sports Domination CEO & Founder David Frerker

Guest Blog By: Nicole Allen

Doping has been an issue of concern since the 60s. It actually dates further back than that but it became a recognized problem a little over 50 years ago. Several high profile athletes participating in various sports activities have been banned for life, thanks to doping, and more continue to be isolated for further testing to this day.  

A Brief History on Doping

Using prohibited performance-enhancing substances is not new to this century. The ancient Greek indulged in a vicious opium juice called ‘doop’ in Dutch, which is how the world arrived at the word ‘dope.’ The first case was experienced by ancient Greeks who participated in Olympics games between 776 and 393 BC.

Sportsmen would eat huge portions of meat, a habit that was uncommon among the Greeks and drink huge amounts of wine for potency. They would also drink opium juice, animal hearts or testicles for potency. This was not at the time considered an offense as the only thing that would lead to disqualification in sports was match-fixing.

100 AD, Roman Gladiators would feed hydromel to their horses, essentially an alcoholic drink laced with honey to improve their performance. The gladiators themselves would ingest hallucinogens to keep them alert and awake. French cyclists of the 19th century were not without their preferred poison either. They would mix coca leaf extract into wine to make what they popularly referred to as ‘the wine for athletes.’ Modern-day doping has borrowed extensively from this extract.

NFL and Doping

The National Football League began testing for a performance-enhancing substance in 1987 and from that point, marked some substances as illegal. In September 2017, NFL and NFL Players Association reached an agreement on how the tests would be conducted, as well as a substance that was going to be tested. Tetrahydrogestrinone, also known as THG is one of the substances that the league agreed from the get-go was prohibited as it enhances performance, but the 2017 agreement added Human Growth Hormone (HGH) to that list.

Is the NFL Testing Procedure too Lenient?  

It has been noted that drug tests are less rigorous in NFL than they are for other sports. Take tennis or the UCL, for example, where tests are random and not structured at all. An official from WADA will show up at the athlete’s door without warning to collect samples.

In the NFL, the tests are conducted throughout the season that runs from September to February. Every week, NFLPA randomly picks 10 players to test abut blood tests are not allowed during game days. Blood tests are limited to 6 times a year.

If a test is conducted at the stadium, a player has up to 3 hours from the time of notice to deliver the specimen while they will be allowed a 24-hour window to deliver the specimen when they are being tested outside the stadium.

Now, here is what makes this process less rigorous than other sports – the athlete is notified of the impending test and no official from the testing body is present to watch the procedure. They trust the athlete to present a clean specimen.

The time given for presenting results is also too long as some say an athlete would manipulate their body to hide likely cases of doping. Does the NFL agree with all this? Not at all as they say Footballers are keen to keep their bodies clean, given that the life of a pro-baller is just over three years. They have a lot to lose, according to George Atallah, assistant executive director external affairs for NFLPA.

NFL Players Suspended for Doping

NFL began actively suspending players for substance violation in the 80s. Several players have been suspended for various sessions based on the severity of their violation, including a few indefinite suspension cases. Art Schlichter, who was found in violation of substance policy was suspended indefinitely in 1983 as was Darrell Russell in 2004.

Fewer Indefinite Suspensions

Trey Watts was sent away in 2015 while LaRon Landry, Sammie Lee Hill, and Rolando McClain were all found guilty and suspended for good in 2016. Several cases of indefinite suspension were reinstated including Fred Davis, Johnny Jolly, and Tanard Jackson among others. The NFL has not suspended a player indefinitely for the last three years, but a good number has been sent out for entire seasons or more than 3 games at a time. Officials attribute this improvement to enhanced testing procedures and frequency.

List of Substance Banned by the NFL

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has listed stimulants, anabolic agents, diuretics and masking agents, street drugs, anti-estrogens, steroids, among other substances. Unfortunately, the league is highly competitive and those caught doping have a hard time winning back their positions on the court. As Atallah noted, players have a lot to lose.

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