The NFL has toughened up its drug policy, adding amphetamines to the list of banned performance-enhancers starting this season.
Amphetamines were previously listed as a “substance-abuse drug,” but are now in the same category as steroids and other enhancers that carry much stronger penalties. This season will serve as a transition year, where a first positive test would bring a warning and put a player into the drug program.
But in 2007, amphetamines will be tested for on a regular basis. A first positive test will result in a four-game suspension, the same penalty now levied for positive steroids tests. Major League Baseball also started testing for amphetamines this season as part of its steroids policy.
Harold Henderson, NFL executive vice president of labor relations, said the league and union worked together to toughen the penalties for amphetamines after the Congressional hearings last year on drugs in sports.
“We never looked at it as a competitive issue for our players, like steroids and other things, but realized the possibility that some players would use it for a gameday edge,” Henderson said Tuesday in a phone interview from San Diego, where he was attending the annual rookie symposium. “The union quickly agreed with us.”
The two sides worked together to hammer out a deal to put into place as part of the new collective bargaining agreement.
“We were all working together during the Congressional investigation,” Henderson said. “We learned about it, we wondered with each other whether this was an issue to be concerned about. In the abundance of caution, we probably should be. We all understood we needed to do something here.”
In addition to the amphetamines change, the penalty for a second positive test for performance-enhancing drugs was increased from six to eight games. A third positive test still carries a one-year suspension.