Holes in new deal

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:56 AM ET

As expected, the CFL and the players' association have reached a new collective bargaining agreement.

While the 2006 season didn't seem to be in jeopardy, the new deal brings labour peace to the league for four years.

The latest CBA also delivers several increased financial benefits to the players and larger rosters.

But the deal is being somewhat overshadowed by what it doesn't include - mainly a drug-testing policy, a ruling on whether the CFL will honour NFL suspensions and a salary cap limit.

The first two points have come to the forefront because of Ricky Williams - a repeat substance abuse violator in the NFL - signing in Toronto.

But the CFL simply can't afford to test its players for drugs.

"It's a combination of several things, not the least of which is the resources and the financial areas," said commissioner Tom Wright. He then admitted, "We will continue to work toward developing a (drug) policy."

Like many players, Tim Fleiszer - the Eskimos' player rep - would like some form of a drug-testing program.

"I certainly would be (in favour of a testing program) for all performance-enhancing drugs," said Fleiszer. "(But) in terms of recreational drug use, that would not be something the players' association would support unless there was a treatment program."

Williams comes to the CFL while under NFL suspension because of his fourth substance abuse violation, which has some wondering if he should be allowed to play in Canada.

But CFL brass doesn't seem to believe the sticky issue of whether to honour NFL suspensions relates to the CBA.

As for the $3.8-million salary cap, it still hasn't been ratified by league owners and will be addressed again at the league's AGM next month.

But the new CBA does contain a $3-million salary floor for each team.

Spearheaded by Eskimos CEO Hugh Campbell and CFLPA president Stu Laird, the new contract also calls for a rise in the minimum salary from $37,000 to $42,000 by 2009, a small increase in Grey Cup payouts to players, an increase to a 42-man roster, improved player pension plan, and player revenue sharing of 56% of team revenue.

RICKY NOT A FIT HERE: While Ricky Williams will reportedly earn close to $500,000 this season from the Toronto Argos, the Edmonton Eskimos wouldn't pay a dime to have the former NFL star on their roster.

Eskimo CEO Hugh Campbell didn't chastise the Argos for signing the repeat substance abuse violator, but made it clear that Williams wouldn't be welcome in his house.

"It doesn't fit in our Eskimo agenda (to sign Williams)," said Campbell.

"But I would like to give Toronto room to manage their team in a way they see fit. Toronto has the right to do what they think they need to do. And I wouldn't want them coming in here and telling us what we shouldn't do."


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