It looks like the CFL is starting to catch up on the drug-infested 21st century.
In a surprise move, a drug policy will be introduced to the new collective bargaining agreement between the CFL and the CFL Players' Association, the CFL announced in a release that declined to reveal any details of a tentative deal Wednesday.
"The players voted for it overwhelmingly a couple of years ago," Winnipeg Blue Bombers player rep Doug Brown said, choosing his words carefully. "Everyone wants to make sure they're on an even playing field.
"The only holdup was that the league was claiming financial duress."
The CFL has been roundly criticized for not adopting a drug policy. But, it was speculated that the sides would be willing to pass on the drug policy because of the testing costs in exchange for not reducing the number of starting Canadians on the roster — perhaps the most contentious issue in the negotiations.
During Grey Cup week, there were reports that the CFL wanted to pare the number of starting non-imports from seven to four, which could actually save clubs some cash.
The tentative deal means there will be no lockout — or strike — on June 6 when the current CBA is set to expire on the opening day of training camp. The agreement remains subject to ratification by both the CFLPA and the CFL board of governors before the 2010 season starts on July 1. Both sides have agreed not to comment on the details until the document becomes official.
"The player reps across the league are unanimously supporting this deal," Brown said without divulging any of the particulars. "It's an optimistic statement made by the league but there are always unknown variables (that could negate the agreement)."
Both the CFL and CFL players were tight-lipped about the negotiations, with only a confirmation that CFLPA president Stu Laird told the players to prepare for a possible lockout.
Money reportedly remained a major issue in the negotiations. Sportsnet.ca revealed that the CFLPA demanded more than the 56% of league revenue that the players received in the last CBA. The CFL is also expected to be able to demand more for the TV rights to its games once its current deal expires after the 2010 season.
According to the Canadian Press, another contentious issue was daily work hours, with teams wanting its players on hand for six hours rather than the 4 1/2 that had been used for practice and meetings.
There was also a suggestion that the CFL wanted to replace a Canadian with an import on the 42-man active rosters. Teams must now carry 20 non-imports.
TSN also reported that the CFL wanted to re-address the fines and/or suspensions issued for discipline problems as the punishments in the past have often been perceived to be too weak.
The two sides will also likely come up with a policy towards expansion, with Ottawa expected to return to the league in the near future and the possibility of establishing a franchise in an Atlantic Province. The CFL will play a regular-season game in Moncton, N.B. this season and there remains interest in Halifax, N.S.