Cowboys Conversation: The NFL and Drugs

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Nov 10, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) is tackled by Dallas Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick (32) during the first half of a game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Don and Meredith are longtime friends and lifelong Dallas Cowboys fans whose bond was solidified when swapping stories about growing up in the hostile territory of New Jersey and facing the same while living in New York City the past ten years. More than anything, they love debating everything Dallas Cowboys with each other. Their posts here at the Landry Hat are a running conversation about America’s Team.

Meredith: Another week, another painful existence as a Cowboys fan. Oh, Orlando.

Don: It’s official. I am convinced the universe is conspiring against Tony Romo. It’s as if it is saying, “Nope, sorry Tony. No matter what you do, we can’t let you ever notch a playoff win or, god forbid, make it to, much less win, a Super Bowl.”

Meredith: Let’s dial back the dramatic rhetoric, dude. The guy plays in the NFL for the most iconic organization, has a great family, adorable, healthy children, and makes millions. I think he’s doing pretty well for himself.

Don: Ok, Pollyanna. While it pains me to admit when you are right, can we at least agree that we cannot catch a break?

Meredith: Normally I would agree with you. But with all that is going on in the world, I’ve gotta try to have some perspective. Besides, I really don’t want to spiral down that rabbit hole of ‘what ifs’ and then make a sharp left into the tunnel of despair before the season begins. So let’s step back from the ledge a bit. But, I think this situation does provide a great opportunity to discuss something I’ve wanted to for a couple of weeks now: the NFL’s drug policy and the punishments therein.

Don: You mean the fact that nothing seems to make sense and that the NFL seems to have no interest in making it make sense?

Meredith: Succinctly put. That’s just it — I don’t get it and I feel like most fans are often bewildered, but I wonder if they have any reason to change it. The league is not the one that loses on this. Players and fans do. Let’s look at the some of the most recent incidents with various drugs violations starting with Orlando Scandrick. Here is the situation as I understand it — the guy goes on vacation with his girlfriend and he takes Molly. Now, Molly is categorized by the NFL as a ‘substance of abuse,’ not a performance-enhancing drug. But amphetamines do fall under the league’s PED policy. What he took was laced with an amphetamine, thus he failed his test. Now he’s out four games. Fair?

Don: Given my loyalties to the Cowboys, I don’t. But as a fan I gotta be honest and admit that I don’t necessarily lose sleep over other players getting suspended — probably because I don’t care about it unless it messes with my fantasy lineup. But his agent, Ron Slavin made, what seems to me, to be a valid point yesterday saying

"“…it is my understanding that if the current proposed agreement related to HGH testing would have already been instituted, a very significant percentage of the players receiving ‘PED’ suspensions since the new CBA took effect would not have been suspended. “Instead, these players, under the proposed new policy, would have been subjected to the Substance Abuse Policy and Program. More than 80 missed games, millions of dollars in fines and bonus repayments have been issued because the NFLPA and NFL cannot come to an agreement. The only people who are losing in this standoff are the players and fans.”"

Meredith: I didn’t spend $150k on a law degree so I don’t know what the impasse is on this issue, nor do I know if Slavin is right. But, if he is, why aren’t we as fans demanding that the drug policy be changed? Also, as an aside, I think it’s incredibly ridiculous for the media — or twittersphere — to bring Scandrick’s ex-girlfriend into it. I’m making assumptions here, but I’ve got to believe that she also did not know that what was taken would have resulted in a positive test. His statement accepted responsibility and she should be left out of it, plain and simple. I mean, really, the woman is on a reality tv show — she’s got enough to deal with.

Don: Please, I bet you’ve watched her show.

Meredith: Ha. I don’t even know the name of it. Besides, even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t know what channel since Time Warner changed all the channel listings. Damn them.

Don: I bet you printed out a whole new list and it’s tacked to your wall. Back to your point – wait, what is your point?

Meredith: Well, let’s continue. Then we look at a case like Josh Gordon’s — he failed a test for marijuana in May, it was his third strike and now he’s facing a year-long ban.

Don: Andrew Sharp from Grantland discussed this in a column a couple of weeks ago. Now, I didn’t agree with him on everything, but I thought he made some pretty compelling points — specifically when he points out the levels of a drug that must be present in a sample in order for it to be considered a positive test are far lower than what other agencies and organizations have as their threshold.

Meredith: Exactly — and how many people know that the while the NFL’s threshold for a positive test is 15 nanograms per milliliter, while the U.S military requires 50 nanograms per milliliter to indicate a positive test? I certainly didn’t until I read that article. (Thanks, Andrew.)