On Monday arbitrator Richard Kasher ruled that NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle's plan to randomly test players for drug use violated the collective bargaining agreement.
The NFL Players Association quickly proclaimed victory.
"This is an extremely important decision," said Mark Murphy, the assistant to NFLPA executive director Gene Up-shaw. "It means management can't assume that Rozelle will come in and do whatever they want done."
Last July, Rozelle announced his plan to give all players two unscheduled drug tests during the 1986 season. He cited his responsibility as commissioner "to protect the integrity of the game."
The NFLPA filed a grievance, claiming that management and union had already agreed in collective bargaining upon the conditions for drug tests: One would be given during the preseason physical and, after that, tests would be given only for reasonable cause.
Rozelle and the league's Management Council took pains to characterize Kasher's ruling a split decision. "Kasher did recognize the inherent powers of Rozelle's office when it comes to protecting the integrity of the game," said Jack Donlan, executive director of the Management Council. "That is very important. Kasher just said Rozelle is restricted in what he can do under the agreement."
Rozelle said he will continue to push for random drug testing, and he called upon management and the players association to resolve their differences on the matter before the agreement expires in August 1987.
If that doesn't happen, random drug testing could be a big issue in the next negotiations. But William Judson, the Dolphins' player rep, said, "I don't think we'll be very hard line. Most players wouldn't mind being tested. We want to clean up the game."
Both Murphy and Judson wondered if Rozelle's drug testing plan wasn't just a publicity stunt. "The drug problem didn't start this year; it was there in 1982, when we signed the collective bargaining agreement," Judson says. " Rozelle makes a big deal now just because two famous athletes [ Len Bias and Don Rogers] died. He used that to say this was an emergency situation. It makes you wonder if Rozelle and management really want to do something about it. Or if this was just a publicity ploy."
Richard Emery, staff counsel for the New York chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, cheered the ruling. Emery said he believes that the NFL's position on drug testing is "rife with hypocrisy and knee-jerkism." He said that the only drug testing that really makes any sense is testing for what he called "performance enhancers" like steroids and amphetamines.