Everything You Need to Know About the NFL’s New Drug Policy

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

The NFL and the NFL Players Association announced today that they have agreed to several important changes to the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. The new-look policy goes into effect immediately and the details can be found here. Among the notable aspects of the agreement, a third-party arbitrator will hear appeals related to positive drug tests, and these appeals are promised to be “processed more expeditiously under improved rules and procedures.” (Josh Gordon will be happy to hear that.)

Here are four more key things you should know about the NFL’s new policy on PEDs.

1. It took long enough

When the NFL and its players union ratified a new collective bargaining agreement in 2011, the deal allowed the league to test players for human growth hormone. An ESPN.com story that’s now more than three years old explained the situation this way: “The aim is to have everything worked out in time to start HGH testing by Week 1 of the regular season, but that is not guaranteed.” That understatement seems nearly laughable with the snail’s pace both sides took in coming to a consensus on exactly how players would be tested and what else a new policy would entail. The quote referred to Week 1 of the 2011 regular season, yet here we are in Week 3 of 2014 finally seeing a long-overdue announcement. It’s about time.

2. HGH testing will start in September — yes, this September

While the league and the union didn’t seem in any hurry over the last three-plus years to get the drug policy done, they’re apparently serious about kicking it into high gear now that it’s been agreed to. According to a press release, HGH testing will be implemented this season, with “information on testing procedures … sent to clubs and players within the week.” The statement says testing will begin later in September, and since we’re more than halfway through the month already, that should give everyone an idea of how aggressive the timeline is for getting started — or catching up — on a process that should have by all accounts begun years ago.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

3. Suspension timelines are set

Under the new policy, a first offense can yield a suspension (unpaid) of as many as six games, depending on the type of violation. Diuretic or masking agent? Two games. Steroid/stimulant/HGH/etc.? Four games. “Evidence of an attempt to manipulate a test” will earn a player an absence of the full six games. A second offense triggers an automatic 10-game suspension, while a third offense will sideline the player for at least two years. One other important change: players will no longer be suspended because of positive offseason tests for banned stimulants, but will be enrolled in the NFL’s substance abuse program instead.

4. The Broncos, Cowboys, and Rams have to be thrilled

As part of today’s announcement, Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker, Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick, and Rams wideout Stedman Bailey are all immediately eligible to play. The trio of players were only halfway through serving four-game suspensions due to positive offseason drug tests. With the new policy (and since their violations didn’t occur during the season), Welker, Scandrick, and Bailey can play as soon as this weekend.

Do you think Peyton Manning could benefit from the sudden return of one of his top targets heading into Sunday’s Super Bowl rematch? Will the Cowboys’ defense get a lift from the reinstatement of a starting cornerback? Could the Rams use a dependable wide receiver this weekend with Tavon Austin battling a knee sprain? The answer on all fronts is a resounding yes.