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THE NFL FAILS ITS DRUG TEST
Richard Demak
July 10, 1989
THE LEAGUE'S DRUG PROGRAM IS MISLEADING TO THE PUBLIC AND CAN BE UNFAIR TO THE PLAYERS
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July 10, 1989

The Nfl Fails Its Drug Test

THE LEAGUE'S DRUG PROGRAM IS MISLEADING TO THE PUBLIC AND CAN BE UNFAIR TO THE PLAYERS

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The NFLPA complains about the league's expansionist approach to testing, but with union and management at poststrike loggerheads over their failure to produce a new collective-bargaining agreement, the players' association has done little more than protest. For his part, Tennant does not answer to players, the union, agents or scientists. After Dallas Cowboy cornerback Victor Scott was suspended in 1988 for allegedly testing positive for alcohol and cocaine, Mills, who is his agent, asked Dr. Rodger Foltz, an associate director of the Center for Human Toxicology at the University of Utah, to run a second analysis of Scott's urine sample. Moyer said in his interview with SI that any player has the right to request an independent retest of his sample, but this would come as news to Foltz, who spoke on the telephone with Tennant and was appalled by their conversation. "He said he didn't have enough sample left to send," said Foltz. "It was very puzzling. He raised some very troubling questions—like had we been paid off? He said there was a lot of money involved in professional sports. And he suggested that we were out to beat the system, or words to that effect. I told him we had no such intention. I thought that was totally inappropriate.

"I've talked to a number of professional colleagues about him. I haven't spoken with anyone who has much positive to say about Dr. Tennant. I have a real concern about [the NFL] program. The person who is directing it in my opinion does not have the knowledge and the professional respect that is needed. Anything that reflects poorly on a drug-testing program can reflect poorly on all drug testing programs. There are some that are reliable and well-controlled. I have serious doubts that the NFL's is."

Another expert troubled by Tennant is Ted Schramm, who operates a San Diego-based company that designs drug-testing programs for the workplace. "There are a significant number of physicians I would have selected over Tennant [to set up the NFL program], because they have a track record of wanting to help the player," says Schramm. "Media events are not helpful. We shouldn't be disclosing who's in trouble. If the name of the game is to play cops and robbers, [then random testing after one positive test is] fine. But if the idea is to help the person, then the physician should find the guy and say, 'We need to talk.' Also, if you're going to test, you must have a program you're going to follow when someone tests positive, and then everyone must be treated the same. The NFL seems to handle different people differently."

One of Rozelle's enduring legacies is a drug program that confirms the worst fears many people have about drug testing in the workplace. The NFL has seized upon the perception that professional sports has a drug problem, and has used that perception to try to improve the league's image and to manipulate players. The NFL tests players and retests them and suspends them and releases their names, and the public assumes that Rozelle & Co. mean business about drugs because they read about the suspensions in the newspaper. But the league has put its faith in a drug adviser who plays cop more than he does doc, and who has fashioned a drug program that lumps everybody together—addicts and nonaddicts, positives and false positives.

The lucky player is the one who smoked one joint and lost a bundle in the draft and had to be tested twice a week and maybe had to spend a month in a clinic being treated for a problem he never had. Considerably less lucky is the player who may have had to undergo all that and never even smoked a joint. Unluckiest of all is the player who is an addict and never gets any help.

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