It's a letter no NFL player or prospect wants to receive: A positive urine test. But in the
case of Michigan State receiver Charles Rogers, a consensus top-three pick in this year's
draft, the positive test administered at the scouting combine in Indianapolis was labeled
as "diluted urine" and not for any specific banned substance.
Rogers, through his agent Kevin Poston, claims that the diluted urine was nothing more than excessive water based on the amount Rogers was encouraged to consume by
doctors after he was having trouble producing a urine sample that day in February.
This is ridiculous. I guess it means I'm representing a water abuser."
Agent for Torrie Cox
"He had to go to the bathroom for them at 5:30 in the morning and with people
standing all around him," said Poston. "He couldn't go, so they gave him a lot of water
and 30 minutes later, he did."
Don't laugh. Torrie Cox, a University of Pittsburgh cornerback, also was flagged
for a positive test because of diluted urine. Cox's agent, Peter Schaffer, also claims that
his client's excessive consumption of water -- primarily to deal with the demands of the
three-day combine -- caused the positive test.
"This is ridiculous," said Schaffer. "I guess it means I'm representing a water
The NFL would not comment or confirm the positive tests for either player. But in
a letter sent to Cox that Schaffer provided for ESPN, league doctor Lawrence Brown
wrote, "Dilute specimens are often the result of drinking extraordinarily large amounts of fluid prior to the provision of a urine specimen. A willful attempt to consume large
amounts of liquid to avoid detection of a substance prohibited by the National Football
League is treated as a violation equivalent to a positive test under the National Football
League Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse."
Greg Aiello, a league spokesman, spoke generally that the league's view on a diluted specimen is, "It is not a masking agent, but it is considered a masking technique."
Team executives had a variety of reactions around the league, but not for acclamation due to the league's confidentiality policy. One general manager thought counting a diluted specimen that contains a large amount of water as a positive test was "ridiculous."
Another GM said that his team doctors and trainers believe the amount of water that is required to constitute a positive test for a diluted specimen "is so high that it's a definite red flag."
"That's why they test players early in the morning when a person generally has the
highest concentration of body minerals," the GM added.
Rogers was unavailable for comment but he was among 20 players who visited
the Detroit Lions on Monday. The Lions choose second in the draft and are expected to
take the Michigan State star, barring an unforeseen circumstance. Lions GM Matt Millen
did not elaborate much about the league's documented medical reports from the Combine
to all 32 teams. Most teams received the reports Friday.
"All that stuff is going to be between Charles and the National Football League and his agent and that's it," said Millen. "I had a lot of questions (for Rogers). I'm not going to get into what questions I asked. Those are personal and confidential."
Most team executives contacted by ESPN did not believe Rogers' draft status would be hurt because he has no documented off-field problems or reported positive drug tests at Michigan State. The Lions also have an insider's knowledge of Rogers because they hired ex-Spartans head coach Bobby Williams as their new receivers coach.
However, two team executives not affiliated with the Lions did say that Rogers' test will motivate them to dig deeper into his background.
There was some confusion Monday over whether Rogers automatically enters the NFL's substance abuse program. Poston said he did not and Aiello seemed to verify his position when he said a player who tests positive for diluted urine is "subject to possible entry into our program." Both men did agree there would be evaluation by the league's medical doctors under the policy.
However, if Rogers received the same letter dated March 7 as Cox did from Dr. Brown, who oversees the program, then it's a little more vague about Rogers' rights. Brown wrote Cox: "League policy dictates that if and when you sign an NFL contract, periodic and unannounced League-directed urine testing will begin immediately.
You will also be subject to other provisions of the NFL Policy and Program for
Substances of Abuse, including a requirement for a comprehensive evaluation, education, and, if necessary, treatment."
Cox is not a high-profile player like Rogers and is projected as a mid-round cornerback prospect. Yet Schaffer said he grew very concerned Monday when a "couple
of club execs" suggested the positive diluted urine test was harmful to Cox's draft status.
Schaffer also is livid because he says that letters of appeal to NFL commissioner
Paul Tagliabue have been ignored.
One letter from Cox's trainer at Pitt says he had three similar positive tests for diluted urine that the trainer later determined were caused by his excessive consumption of water leading up to games. No banned substances were detected in follow-up tests, the
trainer told Tagliabue.
Furthermore, Pitt strength coach Dave Kennedy also wrote the commissioner on Cox's behalf, saying he believed the player's diluted sample was based upon "our recommendations to all of our athletes to properly hydrate for the Combine."
"As a common practice for all of our players at the Combine, because of the speed
and intensity of drills performed at the Combine and the greater risk of a pull and strain,
we feel proper hydration is paramount for any athlete who will participate in the Combine workouts," Kennedy wrote. "I so instructed Torrie to properly hydrate at the Combine. I have been apprised that Torrie('s) drug test came back 'dilute.' It is my professional opinion that this 'dilute' test was a direct result of the instructions given him by our University as it pertains to hydration and not an attempt on Torrie's behalf to mask any illegal drug use."
Cox did take part in all aspects of the Combine's testing regimen. Rogers did not physically work out but made himself available to medical and written exams, as well as
some team interviews.