Out of Bounds: Backwards NFL drug policy is too harsh

The National Football League is bigger than ever. With the Super Bowl being one of the world’s most-watched television events, the revenue goal for the 2014-2015 season is about $10 billion. The NFL’s biggest competitor is the National Basketball Association, which has about half the revenue of the NFL. The owners of the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell have created an insurmountable empire that provides first-class American entertainment on Thursday, Sunday and Monday nights from September to December. The revenue of the league isn’t the only thing getting bigger in the sport. Headlines about NFL players running afoul of the law seem to have become daily occurrences. From quarterback Michael Vick’s involvement with dog-fighting to wide receiver Donté Stallworth’s drunk driving, players commonly tarnish their reputations with criminal acts.

Some players get their reputations damaged by using recreational drugs. The Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon was suspended for the entire 2014-2015 season for testing positive for marijuana several times. The NFL tests for 15 ng/ml of THC in urine tests for marijuana. All other competitive sports in the United States test for 50 ng/ml of THC. If this were the case in the NFL, Gordon would have passed his test and wouldn’t have been suspended for his drug use.

Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker also made the news by testing positive for unprescribed Adderall despite first being accused of taking MDMA. Goodell suspended Welker for four games.

The NFL’s strict policy for marijuana and other drugs would be understandable if it held its players to the same standards for performance-enhancing drug use. This is not the case. The NFL does not test for human growth hormone. This hormone allows muscles to grow and regenerate much faster than the natural human rate, letting players become massive in size and strength. That could be the difference between a league minimum salary or a multimillion dollar deal.

Imagine the benefits from the following scenario: the NFL and the National Football League Players Association agree that the NFL will lower its standards of testing for marijuana and other recreational drugs and start testing for HGH. Not only will this save players like Gordon from suspension, but players would be discouraged from cheating.

This could directly affect the concussion problem in the NFL. Smaller players don't hit as hard as bigger players. Fewer injuries means the games’ stars can stay on the field instead of on the injured reserve list. The world has heard of changing the rules, the equipment and even the game clock to decrease injuries. What hasn’t been heard is changing the players themselves.

The NFL is most concerned with revenue. With more stars on the field, revenue should be higher. Injuries to players like St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford put a terrible product on the field for the NFL. New Rams quarterbacks Shaun Hill and Austin Davis just can’t bring in the same type of money. The NFL needs to allow its players to have a little more fun in exchange for their safety on the field. If the players can get a little high, the NFL’s revenues can get even higher. That’s a pretty even exchange.

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