Weslye Saunders Suspension Likely Because Of A Careless Mistake

It was announced late Monday night that Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Weslye Saunders has been suspended for the first four games of the 2012 season by the NFL for reportedly violating the league\’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Since that time the speculation of course has been rampant as to what the substance was. The initial “rumors” were that it was a failed illegal drug test, but Scott Brown reports this morning that it is believed that Saunders had taken a stimulant prescription drug unknowingly or without receiving a medical waiver from the NFL. Dejan Kovacevic added in his blog post this morning that if what the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has been told is accurate, this was nothing more than a stupid mistake. A really stupid mistake.

The league will not reveal what a player was suspended for exactly, but judging from the reports of both Brown and Kovacevic, it would lead you to believe that Saunders may have tested positive for amphetamine salts, better known by its brand name Adderall. Adderall is a prescription drug used to treat patients with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy. It also has been known to treat obesity in addition. There have been several players suspended over the last for using Adderall without following the proper procedures set forth by the NFL before using such medication and they were St. Louis Rams wide receiver Austin Pettis, Seattle Seahawks guard John Moffitt, Tennessee Titans fullback Ahmard Hall, New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes and New Orleans Saints placekicker Garrett Hartley. In the case of Hall and Hartley, they both admitted to borrowing the drug from someone to help them stay awake on long drives.

As far at the NFL policy on anabolic steroids and related substances goes, the list below shows what is prohibited:

  • Anabolic Steroids
  • Peptide Hormones (hGH, hCG, IGF-1, etc.)
  • Beta-2 Agonists (Clenbuterol, etc.)
  • Diuretics and Other Masking Agents
  • Ephedrine, Amphetamines and Certain Other Stimulants
  • Erythropoietin (EPO) –Dietary “Supplements” Containing Prohibited Substances
  • Other Substances Related to the Above

A first positive test for the above results in a medical evaluation (if Advisor directs) and suspension for a minimum of 4 regular and/or postseason games. A second positive test results in medical evaluation (if Advisor directs) and suspension for a minimum of 8 regular and/or postseason games. A third positive test results in a minimum of a 1 year suspension. Players of course are not be paid during suspensions and are subject to discipline for positive tests at any time during the year. They can appeal test results and/or discipline to the Commissioner or his designee, according to the policy, and they will be offered a hearing where they may be represented by counsel.

Their have been players that have tested positive for Adderall like Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer did at the NFL combine back in 2010. Dwyer and his agent informed the NFL well ahead of time of the medication that Dwyer was taking for his ADD, but one of the league doctors mistakenly did not include him on the exemption list according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. As a result, Dwyer’s name showed up on the tested positive list. In the case of Saunders though, he better hope that if it was Adderall or another prescription drug that might have caused a dirty test, that he or his agent used the proper channels to get it cleared by the league. Brown stated in his article this morning that Saunders\’ agent, James “Butch” Williams, declined comment on Tuesday. This is not necessarily an admission of guilt, but one would think that an agent would try to clear it up quickly if he has all the facts. Maybe he doesn\’t.

Unless Saunders or his agent reveal the facts, all we are left to do is to speculate. If indeed it was a careless mistake by Saunders like that of Hall and Hartley, which I am betting it was, it may be costly one. Missing four games is no way for a former undrafted player to start off his second season and he will really need to show he is worth holding on to during training camp and preseason before his suspension kicks in. Hopefully this all just turns out to be one big misunderstanding and a lot of us are rooting for Saunders to overcome this latest setback, that is if the suspension and speculation hold true.