NFL should strengthen policies on enhancers


Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
There are performance enhancing drugs in football.

The league does a good job of policing them -- certainly a far better than baseball, which suffered another embarrassing episode Tuesday as Alex Rodriguez tried to explain himself.

But the NFL shouldn't rest on being the best and assume that nothing is going on. It should take a day like this, when the "SportsCenter" lead will be highlights and discussion of Rodriguez, as a warning shot. As if it's happening to football.

The collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and its players needs to be renegotiated by the spring of 2010 to avoid an uncapped year. There are a lot of financial issues to sort out, but it should be taken, too, as an occasion to refortify the league's policies against performance enhancers.

Surely both sides are looking at baseball, thankful it's not them and hopeful that it won't be in the future. Surely many players know teammates who are skirting the policies or using human growth hormone (HGH), which is difficult to detect. I like to believe that at least the smart players think that while it's nice to be far cleaner than baseball, it would be nicer to be cleaner still.

It's not enough that suspensions for Shawne Merriman and Rodney Harrison hardly registered on our collective radar because they were caught and penalized.

Whatever it takes to be as thorough and discouraging as possible, that's what the NFL and the NFL Players Association should do to help guard against the possibility of ending up with the constant and unshakable questions that are tied to baseball.

Baseball now has a policy; Rodriguez said he stopped using anything once that policy was in place. Even if it's a weak policy, it pulls the sport a bit closer to football and reduces the gap some. It's now time for the NFL to be progressive and set the new standard.

If it means blood tests instead of urine tests, if it means more frequent tests, if it means everybody is tested year-round, hammer out an agreement. The powers who will sit at those negotiating tables are aware of A-Rod.

I hope Rodriguez's situation has made the NFL think about how it can improve its safeguards and make sure the league don't end up anywhere near there.