The NFL and its union announced agreement Wednesday on "improvements" to the policy on performance-enhancing drugs that includes testing for human growth hormone and neutral arbitration for appeals, and will make three previously suspended players eligible to play this weekend.
The NFL announced that it will implement HGH testing by the end of this month, and information on the testing procedures will be sent to teams this week. Testing for HGH was originally agreed upon in 2011, but the players had balked at the science in the testing and the appeals process for positive tests.
In addition, the NFL and NFLPA are near agreement on changes to the substance abuse policy, which will be announced when it is completed.
Denver Broncos receiver Wes Welker, Dallas Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick and St. Louis Rams receiver Stedman Bailey are now eligible to return for Week 3 as a result of the new policy. All three players had received four-game suspensions for testing positive for substances that now will be eligible to return under the substance abuse policy.
Appeals of positive tests under the PED policy, including HGH, will be heard by a third-party arbitrator whom league and union officials will choose jointly. The statement promises that appeals will be heard more expeditiously because of improved procedures under the policy.
A first violation of the PED policy will result in a suspension without pay for up to six games depending on violation:
• Positive tests for diuretics or masking agents will result in a two-game ban;
• Positive tests for a steroid, stimulant or HGH will result in a four-game ban;
• Evidence that an attempt was made to manipulate a test result will result in a six-game suspension.
Players will receive a 10-game suspension for a second violation of the policy, while a third positive test will result in a suspension of at least two years.
Positive tests for banned stimulants in the offseason will no longer result in suspensions, however. In these cases, players will be referred to the substance abuse program. Positive test for stimulants during the season will be considered a violation of the PED policy and result in a four-game ban.
While a neutral third party will hear appeals of PED violations, commissioner Roger Goodell will retain his authority under the personal conduct policy, the statement said. Appeals of punishment under the personal conduct policy will be heard by a member of the CBA Appeals Panel.
The league's new recreational drug policy will include additional steps, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
• A first offense will put the player into the league's drug program.
• A second offense is a two-game fine.
• A third offense is a four-game fine.
• A fourth offense is a four-game suspension.
• A fifth offense is a 10-game suspension.
• A sixth offense is a one-year suspension.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.