Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk has some very interesting details about Josh Gordon's failed marijuana test that has him facing a full-season suspension. And if it's true, the NFL's drug testing procedure is more messed up than we could have imagined—and Josh Gordon doesn't deserve a suspension.
Gordon's appeal of his 16-game suspension, which is scheduled to be heard on Friday, will reportedly hinge on inconsistencies in measurement of his urine sample, which was split into two containers. Florio:
Urine samples routinely are split into two bottles, the "A" bottle and the "B" bottle. If the "A" bottle generates a positive result, the "B" bottle is tested. Amazingly, the "B" bottle doesn't have to independently show a violation. Instead, the substance abuse policy states that the "'B' bottle Test need only show that the substance, revealed in the 'A' bottle Test, is evident to the 'limits of detection' to confirm the results of the 'A' bottle Test."
For Gordon, the "A" bottle showed a concentration of 16 ng/ml, only one nanogram per milliliter above the limits of 15. The "B" bottle showed a concentration of 13.6 ng/ml — less than the threshold.
To emphasize, Gordon's "A" and "B" bottles came from the same urine sample. The "B" was only tested to confirm that the "A" wasn't tainted or wildly out of bounds—it doesn't matter that the "B" wouldn't have been a violation had it arbitrarily been labeled the "A" bottle, or that there was a sizable discrepancy between the two tested bottles. It's tough shit for Josh Gordon, despite the fact that his urine averaged out to be below allowable limits.
But, this is how the NFL's Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse (the renegotiation of which has more or less been going on for three years) dictates testing should go. It's the same document that mandated Gordon, a repeat offender, be tested every few days.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Gordon landed in Stage III of the program last year as part of a negotiated two-game suspension for the use of cough syrup that contained codeine. Once in Stage III, a player never leaves. And he must pass up to 10 drug tests per month.
According to the source, Gordon has passed at least 70 drug tests.
The NFL's marijuana policy is a retrograde embarrassment. It's not technically on appeal here, in what sounds like a pretty strong case for Josh Gordon, but maybe it should be.
Update: Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, Gordon's appeal will also maintain that his drug test was so marginally positive that it could have been the result of second-hand smoke.
Update No. 2: Bomani Jones has a different way to look at how screwed up the NFL's policy on marijuana is:
here’s what’s lost in this josh gordon story: the nfl threshold for marijuana is 15 ng/nl. the wada standard? 150. ONE HUNDRED FIFTY.
— Bomani Jones (@bomani_jones) July 29, 2014