Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Suspensions handed down on Williamses

After weeks of speculation and legal maneuvering, the inevitable happened yesterday when the NFL came down on Kevin Williams, Pat Williams, and four other NFL players, suspending them for four games apiece for taking a water pill that contained the banned substance Bumetanide. The season's not lost yet...the players are expected to file an injunction today that would permit them to continue playing for the time being, so we might still see the Williams boys suit up Sunday against Detroit.

Now, normally, I'm all for athletes getting properly punished for breaking the rules. The NFL has a very strict "You are responsible for what you put in your body" rule and I generally agree with it. And I hope I'm not letting homerism sneak in to my judgment. But there's a lot about this situation that's fishy.

* First, understand that Bumetanide itself is not a performance enhancer. It's used to mask the presence of steroids. So there's no proof that Kevin, Pat, or anyone else using the substance is using any kind of performance enhancer. That said, it's obviously on the banned substances list for that reason.

* Here's where it gets really tricky. The manufacturer of StarCaps, the OTC weight-loss pill that contains Bumetanide, does not list the substance as a component of the pill. Again, the NFL's "You are responsible for what you put in your body" rule is a good one, I believe, but when a banned substance isn't listed among the ingredients of a pill, what are you supposed to do? Take everything you ingest to a lab and have it tested?

In any event, StarCaps won't have the opportunity to repeat this "mistake," if it even was unintentional, as they're getting sued off their asses by the suspended players.

* And even trickier -- and here's the big one -- it seems the NFL was aware that StarCaps contained Bumetanide as early as 2006, but did not inform the players or the players' union. So you have a pill with a substance that you don't want your players using but you don't tell them that it contains that substance. Why not? And then you punish them for taking it when you could have just as easily sent out a memo at any point that said, "Don't take this?"

Again, I'm all for a tough drug policy, but it's hard not to side, at least a little bit, with the players on this one. They took something that the manufacturer told them was OK, that the league told them was OK (or at least didn't tell them it wasn't OK), and then they were suddenly told that it wasn't OK and they would be punished for it.

Suppose you like Pizza Hut pizza. You look over the ingredient list. Everything's fine. Then, after eating it for a couple of years, your boss tells you that it contains something that's against your company's drug policy. You're going to be suspended from your job for a month without pay. Now suppose that both Pizza Hut and your employer knew the pizza had the illegal drug in it and didn't tell you. Great, huh?

We haven't seen the end of this whole affair, not by a long shot. Lawsuits will be filed, both against StarCaps and, possibly against the NFL itself. My feeling is that the Vikings will still have the services of the Williams boys for the remainder of the season and that this whole thing won't be sorted out until the off-season. In the meantime, sorry Lions fans...you can't dislodge the Williams wall that easily.

1 comment:

Peter said...

lousy Pizza Hut.

Seriously, good analogy. You hit every point that I make when discussing this issue with others. I'm tired of ignorant internet typers condemning the players for being cheaters/dopers.