Cowboys Conversation: The NFL and Drugs

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Nov 3, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick (32) intercepts a pass in front of Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Greg Jennings (15) in the game at AT&T Stadium. The Dallas Cowboys beat the Minnesota Vikings 27-23. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Don: I have to challenge you on this a little bit though. Are you saying you think marijuana use and taking Molly are the same thing? Because I’m not sure I would agree with that. Let’s not forget that the New York Times just came out in favor of legalizing marijuana, while the Mayor of New York City shut down a summer concert last year after two kids attending it overdosed on Molly.

Meredith: I haven’t decided yet — that’s why we are discussing this. But, hold on there, Jethro. Now, let’s talk about something like Adderall. Obviously the most noteworthy comments on this came from Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman last year when discussing his successful appeal of his four game suspension after testing positive for it. At the time he said:

"“About half the league takes it, and the league has to allow it…”"

and later goes on to say:

"“They’re taking it for legitimate reasons. There’s a reason it’s been prescribed for them.”"

Now, he later said he was “misquoted” and that he himself never took the drug.

Don: I’d be willing to put 20 bucks on the fact that he recanted his statements because his phone was ringing off the hook from guys across the league saying he was blowing up their spot.

Meredith: Ha – forget the league, I bet every kid in college who had finals coming up was pissed too. I really do believe that there are some players out there that have a legitimate medical need to take a drug like Adderall. But, with the number of people being caught — either for using or just saying that’s what they got caught using — and regardless of whether one chooses to believe Sherman, I think the idea of the widespread use of this drug should cause concern. SBNation covered this last year saying:

"“Some have described the effect of stimulant medications as being akin to receiving an IV infusion of caffeine, with the classic picture of an individual using a stimulant being a college student looking to get an extra boost while studying for a test or staying up late to write a paper. For this reason, it isn’t difficult to see why Adderall is considered a performance-enhancing drug. While it acts to “calm the nerves” of individuals with ADHD, individuals without this diagnosis report that taking the drug helps them focus their energy and concentration toward accomplishing everyday tasks at levels otherwise unachievable.”"

Don: Ok, this isn’t funny, but I am picturing you on Adderall. You already get so much done in a typical day — it would be overwhelming to hear about everything you would manage to cram into a 24 hour time period. Just imagine how many white chocolate, cranberry, oatmeal cookies you would be able to bake with that increased ability to focus! But, I’m getting your point — or at least what think your point is — what drugs should the NFL care about, what constitutes a performance-enhancing drug, how tightly should they hold the leash and is there ever room for differentiation?

Meredith: Exactly. Now, I also wonder if a player lives in a state where medical marijuana is legal, are they be permitted a medical exemption in the same way an athlete Adderall is?

Don: Goodell was asked this when it became legal in Colorado. He didn’t say no:

"“I don’t know what’s going to develop as far as the next opportunity for medicine to evolve and to help either deal with pain or help deal with injuries, but we will continue to support the evolution of medicine.”"

Meredith: Interesting. Ok, I still don’t know where I stand. I do think the NFL is going to come to a crossroads on some of these decisions though. I was happy to see Goodell take a tougher stance on standards when it comes to conduct on every front, but I still think there is a lot of improvement in the way the league deals with all of these issues. Seems to me would be that the first step is to be willing to talk about them.

Don: You do LOVE talking things through. I want to think about this more too. Enough from us, I wonder what readers think.

Readers: Do you think marijuana should remain prohibited under the NFL substance abuse program? And, do you think there is a difference between any of the drugs we discussed?