Cole cites "sources close to both players" who say the USC linebackers (both potential first-round picks) went right to Dr. John Lombardo, who administers the NFL's drug-testing policy, and were told they did not test positive for banned substances and had "nothing to worry about."
"The sources said Lombardo further explained to the players that if they had tested positive, they already would have received letters indicating as much. The letters reportedly were sent out three weeks ago, and the sources said that neither player received such a letter."So, good for these guys that they get to clear their names before plummeting in the draft, but doesn't this whole thing smell a little bit? At the very least, the drug-testing procedure for players at the NFL scouting combine strikes me as confusing and easily manipulated. (And touches on the ugly issue of how teams, agents and outside influences try to negatively affect a player's draft status for selfish purposes.)
According to Cole's report, the NFL has issued a statement saying that players who tested positive already know they did and that NFL teams have not yet been given a list of those players. It doesn't say whether the teams will be notified, though you have to imagine they will, or else what's the purpose of the tests? And why is the league administering them?
The foundation of any decent sports drug-testing policy is transparency. If the players aren't going to be punished, or face public shame, then what's the incentive to not do the drugs? And if the data from the testing isn't going to be made available, then how can the sport expect to get a handle on the key issues of performance-enhancing drug use -- issues like which drugs we're talking about, where they come from, how and how often they're used?
The NFL and its players do a lot of skating when it comes to performance-enhancing drugs. Nobody's yet pointed out to me, for example, the baseball equivalent of Shawne Merriman -- the player who tests positive, gets suspended for it and then comes back as if nothing ever happened, without any lingering public anger or resentment.
If this were baseball, and we found out that there were college and/or high school players who'd been tested and turned up positive for banned substances in advance of the amateur draft, there'd be a public outcry demanding that their names be made public. There'd be a race among investigative sports journalists to find and publish the list.
If Cushing and Matthews are clean, then it's a good thing that they get to clear their names. But what happens now? The next time somebody gets accused of the same thing, if they don't get their names cleared through back channels and confidential sources, are we to assume they're guilty?
I think we need to know more about the process by which these kids at the combine are tested, and what purpose the tests and the resulting information serve. I think it'd be in the NFL's best interest to have the process a little more out in the open. Otherwise, all we'll get is sources said this and sources said that, and it'll be up to us to decide who we believe.
And when there are people out there whose aim is to confuse things, that plays right into their hands.