Steelers Not Impressed With ‘Randomness’ Of League’s Drug-Testing Practices

This probably won’t be very surprising to most of you, but many players on the Pittsburgh Steelers are not very impressed by the alleged ‘randomness’ of the NFL’s drug testing practices, particularly in the offseason. Jeremy Fowler of ESPN recently spoke to a number of them to ask them about their experiences with the process.

Vince Williams, for example, recalled that he was rarely subjected to such random drug testing through his first three NFL seasons while he trained on his own in Florida. But he has since been training instead with James Harrison out in Arizona. “And I get drug-tested a lot”, he told Fowler. “I don’t know how random that is, but it’s interesting”.

Fowler said that the NFLPA “has sensed a spike in player complaints the past few years over random tests following big gains in the gym or on the field”. He noted that he requested comment from both the NFL and the NFLPA about that for his article, but that neither requests were immediately returned.

Supposedly, the whole system is run by an independent arbitrator, whose selections are generate from a computer program, and there are up to 10 players per team per week who are subject to tests from the beginning of the preseason through the conclusion of the postseason.

There is a “reasonable cause” program that can target specific players, “including those who failed a drug test in college, but they must be notified that they are in it”. And obvious examples would be players such as Martavis Bryant and Le’Veon Bell, who have previously served multiple drug suspensions.

But that doesn’t explain why Harrison is routinely drug-tested at a level far higher than the norm, as a player who has never failed a drug test at any level. The only logical explanation outside of a statistical improbability is that the drug test selection isn’t so random after all.

“Players say that even a mere affiliation with Harrison can make the process feel calculated”, Fowler wrote, recounting that, similar to Williams, Mike Mitchell also received a notice for a drug test just after “publicly discussing the gains he made while working out with Harrison in Arizona”.

Said Harrison, the poster boy for drug tests, “they can do whatever they want to”. It’s not so much the number of tests that he must deal with that he cares about. “I just want them to test everybody the same. That’s all”.

And it’s also one thing to target some players more than others and another to do so while claiming that it is entirely random except where noted with the player’s knowledge. There is good reason to question whether or not the tests are truly random, and that’s on the NFL.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Jake Marion

    When James Harrison retires, his legacy as a drug free player will be indisputable.
    Haters will claim: “Deebo was on ‘roids.” but the records will show that he got tested more than most players and passed every time.

  • Lil Smitty

    I wonder if fines for hard hits also falls in line with increased drug tests for training with Harrison. Deebo was the poster boy for “dirty player” for years. Now everyone associated with him has been labeled the same.

  • Brenton deed

    It’s obviously not random however I don’t think the NFL is being vindictive towards Deebo so much as arse covering and reacting to public noise. Some Non-Steeler fan sites are always banging on about Harrison being a drug cheat and Ben being a rapist. Non Patriot fan sites always like to weave in some line about them cheating.
    The NFL is going to make sure it’s seen to be diligent about the public’s suspicions … perception management.

  • SilverSteel

    So, if drug tests are not random, how can we expect the refs to be objective? How much of this stuff is going on in other aspects of the game? If the league will be dishonest about testing, what else is being tampered with? there should be a third party audit of the league’s neutrality for all aspects of the game.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    I say it’s on the 31 teams who voted for this clown to,have dictator-like power. Fact – this next negotiation between players and owners is going to be UGLY, and it should be.

  • AndyR34

    It clearly isn’t random, but I disagree with your comment about vindictive. IMHO, it is clearly vindictive. While I agree with your comment on arse-covering, it would be a simple matter to look at Deebo’s training methods and prove or disprove their effectiveness. Increased test frequency on Deebo and those who train with him is clearly vindictive, especially after they find nothing over several months, yet it continues.

  • francesco

    Yes Harrison can wear that as a badge of honor and respect.

  • James Churchwell

    Yes,yes,yes you are on point and I support the UGLINESS that’s going to take place in the next negotiations!!

  • Darth Blount 47

    And just who is the “independent arbitrator” … Bill Belichick?!

    Come on, we all know that the system is dirty. I mean, when was the last time you heard about a star QB getting popped for PED’s? Peyton Manning’s head size grew 3 inches and everyone looked the other way. No, it’s always LB’s and Lineman. Maybe throw a Safety/CB in there. Or even a WR/RB. But a QB?! One who is the face of a franchise? HA!

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    The players will eventually cave in. Always have to date. The sad fact is that missing a couple of paycheques brings these guys to their knees. That’s how little they save and prepare for the future.

  • Darth Blount 47

    I always have to remind people that refs are people too. They were kids once. Teenagers. They all had a Bradshaw or Fouts or Staubach or Tarkenton or Montana poster on their walls. They all grew up rooting for the teams where they were from or loved etc… You don’t just rip that affection out of someone.

    Imagine if one of us were made to be an official. Would all of us REALLY be capable of being 100% objective when it came to the Steeler games? C’mon. These guys were all football/sports fans their whole lives. Of COURSE their is some inherent biases. And I’ll never believe that there is not. Especially once you begin to get to know these guys and the teams and can decipher who are the jagoffs and who are the genuine nice guys. You think people don’t get special treatment?

    Heck, the lady down at my deli who for years has given me extra slices for free, is like my 5th favorite person on the planet, and I only know her first name.

  • Brenton deed

    Yeah I guess it didn’t help Deebo calling Goodell a crook.Mind you Goodell was always going to nail the Patriots over “deflatergate” because of the public perception about them regardless of his good relationship with Kraft.

  • Richard Edlin

    Those players are also African Americans. How often did Wes Welker get tested do you think?