Giants safety Tyler Sash was banned four games earlier this week, after testing positive for a banned substance. But this was no ordinary failed piss test—Sash claims he was using Adderall, under a doctor's supervision, and Adderall is a drug that the NFL's totally cool with when it's prescribed for a legitimate purpose.
Sash says he was taking it for his fear of public speaking (which is decidedly not what it's used for), and Tom Coughlin is flabbergasted that the NFL is punishing the second-year player:
"We'd talked to him last night. I didn't have a chance to talk to him today," Coughlin said. "I read the information. I feel very badly for the player. This kid really had no intention of doing anything that was illegal. I know what the definition of the rule is, and I understand all about that; I've been there myself….but you have to ask yourself, sometimes common sense needs to be involved."
Sash is getting a lot of sympathy, and the NFL's drug testing procedure is taking heat. But here's a very important point: the only source claiming Sash's positive result was due to Adderall, instead of something more sinister, is Sash himself.
The NFL won't comment on the test results, nor Sash's appeal, which is disappointing. But the fact remains, there's no way for us to tell Adderall from greenies or meth or any other form of amphetamines in a drug test. They all provide the same competitive benefits—increased alertness, increased stamina, increased oxygen flow—but
only Adderall has recognized medical benefits. And the NFL, to its credit, accepts this. If a player has a legitimate prescription for Adderall or Ritalin or any ADHD drug, they merely need to inform the league, and those failed drug tests are tossed out.
Sash says he didn't realize he had to inform the NFL, but that doesn't quite wash. His teammate Andre Brown was suspended earlier this year for failing a drug test, but Brown appealed that he had a prescription, and had forgotten to fill out the league paperwork. Exactly the same situation as Sash's, if you believe Sash. Brown's appeal was successful; Sash's was not. We're obviously not getting the full story here.
We wish the NFL was more transparent on these matters. Brown's suspension was vacated. Texans punter Bret Hartmann had his Ritalin suspension reduced to three games. Packers DE Mike Neal's was upheld at four games. Pittsburgh TE Weslye Saunders and Rams WR Austin Pettis too. What's the difference in all these cases? Obviously something. But the NFL can't comment—they're not allowed to, under the CBA. And that leaves the door open for any player who fails a drug test of any kind to claim it was prescribed ADHD medication, and the league can't refute it. All these suspensions have come in the last year, so Adderall might be the new excuse of choice for a positive test, replacing the long-lived "tainted supplement" defense.
The excuse becomes less believable when the league specifically allows Adderall and Ritalin when prescribed correctly. So, some advice to players: just find a shady doctor who's liberal with his scrip pad. It's really not that hard. Baseball players have figured that out.