I was recently asked to comment from a General Manager’s perspective my thoughts on the increasing use of the drug Adderall in the National Football League. The suspensions of Seahawk defensive corners Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner (pending appeal) have once again brought to the forefront the League’s stance on Substance Abuse and its policy governing all banned drugs. Now the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are once again in the spotlight of suspension shortly after former Buc (now New England Patriot) Aqib Talib returned from his own four game hiatus. Eric Wright is the latest to sit out for the Buccaneers as they try to make a late season playoff run.
Adderall in the NFL
Though banned since being put on the NFL’s “No-No” list in 2006, it appears Adderall is taking center stage for coaches and front office executives attempting to keep their clubs clean and their rosters intact. Adderall is a psychostimulant commonly used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Classified as an amphetamine, Adderall can be taken for weight loss and is widely used as a “study drug” on college campuses around the country. It’s reported to give the feeling of drinking “100 cups of coffee” while increasing focus, decreasing anxiety, and supplying an incredible energy boost. But besides providing an enhancing edge to players, like any stimulant it’s subject to abuse and addiction.
The latest cases aren’t the first this season (or even in past seasons) for the NFL to have to administer punishment. As reported by news sources, New York Giants safeties Will Hill and Tyler Sash, Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden and Atlanta Falcons offensive lineman Joe Hawley said their suspensions earlier this year were also because of Adderall.
Lessons ever learned?
On the heels of Lance Armstrong’s personal demise as a result of “blood doping”, you’d think we’d just about had our fill of these types of stories. Baseball’s struggles have long been front and center with the likes of Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco and Barry Bonds. The physicality and brutal nature that lays the boundaries for NFL players at times screams for shortcuts to be taken. Players are looking for every little edge they can gain in performance and longevity on the field.
The National Football League has been as proactive a governing body as there is in professional sports. For as many “beefs” as I have concerning some of the oversight of the League Office, this isn’t one of them. Drug testing is administered randomly and often. Players are briefed and made fully aware of the list of banned substances by the NFL. There are “hotlines” to call with even the slightest of concerns or questions regarding anything a player takes into their system. The education process is thorough and the emphasis is complete.
Players should police themselves
Punishment of a four game suspension is tough on a wallet but can be crippling to a team, and here is where I’m going. The players have to step up and take it upon themselves to “police” their own profession, specifically at the club level. Little goes on inside a team that isn’t known in the locker rooms around the League. It’s difficult in any environment to be considered the “snitch”, but as Star Trek’s Mr. Spock once said, “The needs of the many out weight the needs of the few, or the one.”
In the case of players abusing, misusing, or otherwise screwing around with recreational, prescription, or over the counter drugs, it does nothing but put personal reputations on the line and put at risk the long term performance of the club. The League is usually vague and ambiguous as to what the specific violation of the Substance Abuse Policy is when handing down their judgment, leaving no recourse for the fans, the media, and others but to speculate. That is unless the player is willing to come clean on his own. Otherwise you’re just a pot smoking, steroid injecting, Adderall popping suspended abuser. From a GM’s perspective I don’t care what it is. If it hinders the ability to reach team goals, it needs to be dealt with strongly. I’ll do everything afterward to help the player address his problem.
But when it comes to policing their own behavior, ownership must be taken by the players. Fines and suspensions only go so far in getting the message across to the individual. As it starts hurting team performance and imposing lost playtime through suspensions, coaches and front office executives would be well served to ask for a little internal help from their own roster. Stop it at the source and don’t let it get this far. Peer pressure is a powerful motivator, even in the ultra-competitive National Football League.
Aren’t you all sick of these stories?
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