The stalemate between the CFL and its players association appears to have broken.
Sources close to the talks say the two sides are actually negotiating, trading proposals, reducing the likelihood of a work stoppage this season.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is it appears the CFL will go yet another season without a drug policy.
The issue of drug testing along with punitive measures for failed tests has been on the table in the current collective bargaining talks.
But sources say the program is a luxury the CFL might not be able to afford, at least in the first year of any new CBA.
We’re told the league has pegged the cost of a program at around $500,000. And while the CFL was willing to foot the bill this season, it wanted to do so partially on the backs of its players.
One source says the league wanted financial concessions from the union, claiming corporate sponsorship revenues are down due to the recession.
The players looked at that and suggested maybe the league should delay the drug policy by a year.
Players have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a program, but it’s clear they don’t want it implemented if it’s going to mean less pay for the rank and file.
While star quarterbacks can earn in excess of $300,000, the average CFLer probably doesn’t make much more than $70,000. So any hit on their pay cheques is felt, however minor.
Then again, you could argue the players should pick up part of the cost. It’s in their own best interests, after all.
Assuming the policy will have teeth — and there’s no guarantee of that, based on what other pro leagues have reluctantly come up with — a player could feel secure he’s not competing against a ’roided-up opponent, or even a teammate using performance enhancers to win his job.
If even a few are using — and we’ve seen them come and go, imports and non-imports alike — there’s pressure to keep up. Problem is, the health side-effects can be devastating.
Then there’s the issue of so-called recreational drugs, and here’s where I can see players getting their backs up.
Saskatchewan defensive back Tad Kornegay recently raised some eyebrows when he told the Wall Street Journal that CFLers smoke marijuana to relieve stress and pain.
The article said Kornegay suggested half the Riders smoke up, and while he’s since denied saying that, it’s generally believed marijuana use is common across the league.
There’s no word on whether any new policy would include penalties, or even testing for, recreational drugs. If it does, be prepared for a rash of suspensions.
This isn’t the only CBA issue there’s been some movement on.
Word is the previously icy relationship between the two sides has begun to thaw, with both now believing a new deal will get done.
Whether it’ll be in time for training camp next month is another story.
We’re told the league has finally budged on some items it previously was drawing a hard line on, its desire to take away the players’ guarantee of earning 56% of league revenue presumably one of them.
And that ridiculous notion of reducing the number of starting Canadians, floated during Grey Cup week last fall?
Sources say that’s off the table, which means it was just a feeble attempt by the league to pretend to negotiate, that it wasn’t serious about the proposal in the first place.
Seems to me if the two sides weren’t busy playing games like this, and fighting for a bigger piece of a relatively small pie, they’d actually be able to clean up the league’s image as a haven for drug cheats.
Sadly, that may have to wait.