New policy will change pot discipline

Updated: May 13, 2014, 9:37 PM ET
By Dan Graziano | ESPN.com

It would be too late to help Josh Gordon, Will Hill or anyone else in danger of a lengthy suspension for violations of current rules. But when and if the NFL's new drug policy is finalized and announced, it will include changes specific to marijuana and other drugs of abuse.

A source told ESPN.com on Tuesday that the renegotiation of the drug policy, which has been going on since 2011 and includes testing for human growth hormone, also will significantly increase the threshold for a positive marijuana test and reduce the punishments for violations involving that drug.

The source said the NFL's policy on marijuana is outdated, pointing out that the World Anti-Doping Agency has a higher threshold for a positive test than the NFL currently does.

The NFL Players Association has expressed to the league an interest in studying the medical research that has led to the legalization of marijuana in many states for medicinal use, but it believes changes are needed in the meantime regardless.

What is holding up the implementation and announcement of changes to the league's drug policy is a continued standoff over arbitration of discipline. In cases of nonanalytical positives (i.e., an Alex Rodriguez-type case in which a player is found to be in violation of the drug policy by some method other than a failed test) or in cases of violations of law (i.e., a player getting caught trying to smuggle prescription drugs across the Canadian border), the NFLPA has asked that discipline appeals be heard by an independent arbitrator.

The NFL has continued to insist that the commissioner have final say over discipline matters.

It's the same hang-up that was addressed last week by union president Eric Winston, who said of commissioner Roger Goodell on the issue of HGH testing, "He wants to hold all the cards and he wants to be the judge, jury and executioner, and we're not going to go for an un-American system like that."

In response to the union's claims, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello emailed the following to ESPN last week: "It's kind of funny because since 2011 the union has come up with one excuse after another to avoid implementing an agreement to test for HGH. First, it was the testing method; then it was the population study; now it's commissioner authority. Our commitment to testing is clear. The same cannot be said of the union."

The dispute over arbitration, it turns out, is holding up more than just HGH testing. There are widespread changes to the NFL's drug policy that these two sides have negotiated and are waiting to implement once they can reach agreement on the administration of discipline.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.