Pro Football Talk reported last night that the NFL and the players are "very close" to a sweeping overhaul of the league's drug policy and procedures, one that may or may not include the long-debated HGH testing. But multiple sources are reporting other changes, ones that if they had been in place over the last year would have prevented both Josh Gordon and Wes Welker from being suspended at all.
Big changes on the table in new drug program, per sources: 1) Higher threshold for marijuana test; 2) Removal of amphetamines from PED list.
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) September 4, 2014
In the failed test that got him suspended for a full season, Josh Gordon's urine sample reportedly registered 16 nanograms per milliliter, barely above the NFL's threshold for a positive test of 15 ng/mL. Last year the World Anti-Doping Agency, whose standards are used by the Olympics and other international sports, raised its threshold for a positive test to 150 ng/mL, or 10 times what the NFL requires.
In raising its own test limits, the NFL would be getting in line with most of the rest of the sporting world when it comes to a substance that's being increasingly decriminalized.
There's something similar in play with amphetamines, which may—if negotiations continue to progress—be reclassified as a substance of abuse rather than as a PED, categories for which the NFL has two separate policies with two separate schedules of punishment.
Wes Welker is missing four games under the PED policy for amphetamine use, which one report claims he ingested as a byproduct of taking molly.(There's a fuller explanation here, but pure MDMA is considered a recreational drug, but the stuff it's cut with likely includes amphetamines that the NFL classifies as PEDs.) If amphetamines—which can certainly be both performance-enhancing and recreational, depending on the type and the context—were all classified as substances of abuse, and it had been his first offense, Welker would merely have become subject to more frequent drug testing.
These seem like reasonable, overdue, and mutually beneficial changes to a drug policy that currently makes no one happy. Neither the league nor the union benefits from losing the sport's biggest stars to recreational use of largely harmless drugs. Good job, everyone involved!