It's wrong: Commish Wright

CFL commissioner Tom Wright is no fan of teams signing suspended NFL players to try to win the Grey...

CFL commissioner Tom Wright is no fan of teams signing suspended NFL players to try to win the Grey Cup. (Winnipeg Sun/Marcel Cretain)

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

The CFL should not be a haven for drug-using NFLers. And beginning next season, it won't be.

That was the word from CFL commissioner Tom Wright yesterday.

Breezing through town for a Grey Cup golf tournament, Wright revealed plans to close the loophole that allows CFL teams to sign suspended NFL drug offenders such as Ricky Williams and Onterrio Smith.

The problem is the issue isn't addressed in the current agreement between the two leagues.

"We've got a soft spot or a deficiency in the policy we need to address," Wright said. "Right now we do not have language in our current cooperative arrangement with the NFL that prevents what has happened, not only with Onterrio Smith here, but Ricky Williams in Toronto, and many players in the CFL over the last several years."

Wright says he's already spoken with NFL officials about amending the agreement to ensure the two leagues will honour each other's suspensions. The CFL-NFL deal expires at the end of this season.

The commish says he's confident most CFL teams think that's the way to go.

And that's a good thing.

We first brought up the issue early this month, when the Blue Bombers were making noises about signing Smith, the former Minnesota Vikings running back who's serving a one-year NFL suspension for repeated drug violations.

At the time, nobody else seemed to care.

All that changed when the Toronto Argonauts signed Williams, the suspended Miami Dolphin, this past weekend.

One of the better running backs in the NFL, when he plays -- he led the loop with more than 1,800 yards on the ground in 2002 -- Williams has brought the issue to the forefront.

Because he's so good, rival GMs are a little worried.

Compounding their concern is the fact Williams was still under contract to the Dolphins, who had to give their permission for the Argos to sign him.

Montreal's Jim Popp was the first to publicly question why the CFL wasn't honouring an NFL contract.

Winnipeg's Brendan Taman and Saskatchewan president Jim Hopson have also wondered aloud about the issue, which, let's face it, could set a dangerous precedent.

For instance, what's to stop the NFL from swooping in on Bomber linebacker Kyries Hebert, who's currently suspended by Winnipeg for not showing up at training camp?

There's another issue at play here -- the image of the CFL, a league without a drug policy of its own.

If NFL drug dropouts keep coming north to play, what kind of message does that send to the youth you're trying to attract as fans?

You can debate the morals of smoking marijuana until the cows come home, but what about players suspended for cocaine use? Or worse?

A new, beefed up CFL-NFL agreement will eliminate the need for teams to make moral judgments on a player-by-player basis.

It'll be black-and-white: you're not welcome in the CFL until you've served your NFL suspension.

"The governors I've spoken to share my perspective," Wright said. "You want to make sure you've got the right rules in place so you don't have to try to be objective in determining whether you've got the right character, as opposed to this person."

Wright's confident this thing will pass. Of course, he was confident about the new salary cap, too, and that's still tied up in procedural wrangling.

We can't help but wonder about teams like the Argos, who've made a living off the NFL suspended list in recent years.

Like the players they're signing, they need to kick the habit.


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