New CFL drug policy falls short

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:38 AM ET

So the CFL is claiming it’s scored a touchdown, implementing the toughest drug policy in professional sports.

Well, nice try, fellas, but there’s at least one flag on the play.

To claim the CFL “caught up and passed” other pro leagues, as commissioner Mark Cohon did at Tuesday’s news conference, is about as off the mark as some of Michael Bishop’s passes last season.

Don’t get me wrong, the league did get a few things right. Off-season testing, for one, although I have no idea how they’ll get a guy from the back roads of Texas to pee into a bottle in the middle of February, package up the sample and send it to the lab for testing.

I can’t see them paying to send drug testers all over the U.S..

The concept of off-season testing, though, is a solid one, even if it only happens at team-sanctioned workouts, and gives the CFL something the NFL, NHL and baseball don’t have.

They’re going to conduct blood tests, too, which offers a chance to stop the use of human growth hormone, the bodybuilding drug of choice in the NFL.

South of the border, they don’t test for HGH, so give the CFL the edge there.

Having an expert, independent agency, the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, conduct the tests was the way to go, too. Another thumbs up.

And testing 25% of players next year, more in subsequent years, as well as automatic testing of the top draft prospects shows the CFL means business on some levels — if they stick to those targets.

But where this thing fails to fill the bottle is in the penalties.

In the NFL, a first positive test results in a four-game suspension, which is already a joke.

Well, the CFL went one further: get caught the first time, and you don’t pay a price at all. Incredibly, those players will only be encouraged to get counseling, and it’s optional, at that.

Oh, and they’ll be subject to mandatory testing.

That’s not even a slap on the wrist.

A second offence triggers a limp, three-game suspension, and only at this point is the player identified.

If you’re somehow dumb enough to get caught three times, you’ll be banned for a year, and after four positive tests the league has finally had enough of you, for good.

With a policy like this, Ricky Williams might want to come back.

Actually, the use of marijuana, the former Toronto running back’s drug of choice, isn’t even covered in the CFL policy. Neither is cocaine.

The message to players: if you find the NFL’s policy on “recreational” drugs too stifling, come on up! The Cannabis Football League has a job for you!

Wouldn’t team presidents and GMs, most of whom claim to be so eager to connect with their communities and their fans, particularly families, want to know if their players are abusing illegal drugs?

Those violators could be given special consideration, the way they are in Canadian colleges, with reprimands instead of suspensions, and the athletes’ names kept confidential.

But no, the CFL is only concerned with performance enhancing drugs.

Then why not at least put some teeth into that?

The lax approach at discipline is beyond me.

The CFL isn’t even instituting any part of the policy this season, calling it a chance to educate players about the pitfalls of doping.

So you’re going to educate and warn them for a full year, and if they still decide to cheat, and get caught, they’ll only be encouraged to get counseling?

That makes the CFL’s new drug policy the weakest of them all where it counts the most: as a deterrent.

So they can puff out their chests and celebrate all they want in the league office.

This is no touchdown, though.

Upon further review, it’s fallen incomplete.

Contact Paul at paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca or 632-2788.


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