CFL adopts new drug testing policy

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:03 PM ET

By the end of next season, Wes Lysack expects the general public to find out just how clean CFL players actually live.

When the CFL announced its new collective bargaining agreement Tuesday, the biggest addition is a drug-testing policy that will begin next season.

The Calgary Stampeders safety was his team’s representative during negotiations and said the union was all for the program, which will include year-round testing for 25% of the players to start out with before expanding to 35% the following year.

“As a union, we were 100% in favour of drug testing,” Lysack said. “It’s a step in the right direction. We’ll see how it unfolds.

“As players … we listen to the community and the community was pushing for it a long time.

“Having it in place is a good step for us. In the next CBA, there might even be more but right now we’re happy with it.”

The new CBA is a four-year deal that includes provisions for off-season workouts, an elimination of the NFL option-year window and increased player compensations.

The salary cap will increase from $4.25 million this season to $4.4 million in 2013 when the deal expires. The minimum team salary is $3.9 million this season increasing to $4 million in 2013.

The drug-testing policy will only include performance-enhancing drugs, not ones used recreationally, and first-time offenders will not be identified.

A second offence triggers a three-game suspension and it will be publicly disclosed. A third offence means a player is booted for one year, while a fourth offence will mean a lifetime ban.

The CFL is giving players this season to learn about what can be taken safely and what will be on the banned list.

“Any time you have something like this, there needs to be a grace period for education,” Lysack said. “We have to make sure (Stamps trainer) Pat Clayton and our strength and conditioning coaches know what’s in place and what isn’t.”

In the agreement, CFL teams can now have one three-day camp between Feb. 1 and April 30 to get their players ready for main training camp.

The NFL option-year window will be gone by the off-season following 2012 campaign and no player signing now will have that chance.

The CFL lost more than 20 players to the NFL this past off-season, but this move might not change that as free agents are still available to sign down south.

While the deal has no changes to the import ratio, one part could actually help get more Canadians on the field in the future.

There is a provision that two more undrafted, non-import quarterbacks can be added to training-camp rosters and won’t count against the total number of players.

That means there could be more Canadian pivots getting a chance to prove themselves during camp.

The Toronto Argonauts took the step this season to bring Danny Brannagan into camp, and he earned a practice-roster job for the regular season.

“We need to help out Canadian quarterbacks in this league,” said Stamps starting QB Henry Burris.

“It’s a Canadian’s game. Part of the future is seeing a number of Canadians battle for starting positions. The only way they can groom themselves is a chance to come in to camps and have the opportunity to get on practice rosters.”

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca


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