Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Suspensions case moves to state court
MINNEAPOLIS -- A judge said Tuesday he'll move quickly and carefully to resolve a lawsuit by Minnesota Vikings Kevin Williams and Pat Williams, who are fighting their four-game suspensions for their use of a banned substance.
With the legal fight moving from federal court to state court, Hennepin County District Judge Gary Larson asked for and got assurances from NFL attorneys Joseph Schmitt and Dan Nash that no immediate action will be taken against the Williamses ahead of the season. One of the complicated legal issues he needs to decide is whether any temporary restraining order against the suspensions remains in place.
"I'll move expeditiously. ... But I'm also going to do it in a very deliberate fashion," Larson said at a hearing in the case.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said afterward that the league still intends to impose the suspensions at the start of the regular season. As is standard procedure, he said, suspensions that take effect in the regular season do not prevent players from participating in preseason activities.
The Williamses, who are not related, tested positive last year for a banned drug that can mask the use of steroids, though they are not accused of taking steroids.
The players each took the weight-loss supplement StarCaps, which contained the diuretic bumetanide, though it wasn't listed on the label. The NFL has acknowledged it knew StarCaps contained the banned drug, and the players say the NFL wrongly failed to share that information.
U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson last week dismissed most of the Williamses' lawsuit but sent the case back to state court to resolve two remaining claims under Minnesota laws. Magnuson denied a request from the NFL Players Association to keep the suspensions of the two Vikings and three New Orleans Saints players on hold while the union and NFL appeal different parts of his decision.
Larson told both sides to file briefs addressing two disputed issues that need to be addressed relatively soon: whether any order blocking the suspensions remains in force and whether he even has jurisdiction to hear the case. The last of the briefs is due June 22.