Aug 15 2010
If Vikings defensive tackles Kevin and Pat Williams are busy fighting for their 4-game suspension in court because of the StarCaps supplement, there were at least 8 players who were pardoned by the league for using the same supplement. This was revealed in the report of the Pioneer Press showing how the league absolved several players from sanctions. In 2006 and 2007, the NFL’s drug-testing administrator Dr. John Lombardo was already aware that there were several players who were taking Starcaps. This supplement contains the banned diuretic bumetanide which is considered as a masking agent for steroids.
The contention of the Williamses that they were not informed by the league about the tainted supplement becomes a legitimate concern. The league’s anti-doping officials are now being questioned if they are really fair in implementing these policies. Putting the blame on the players for not being responsible for what they are taking may be too one sided. The league has also the responsibility to inform their players of matters that may affect them. This was also brought out by NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith when he testified to a House subcommittee investigating sports drug testing. He accused the league of a double standard for disciplining some StarCaps users while acquitting others.
Pardoned NFL Players
The players who failed the steroid test because of Starcaps supplement were not referred for any disciplinary action. They were never accused of taking steroids. Their claim that they do not have any knowledge that Starcaps contained a banned substance was accepted by Dr. John Lombardo. Although he was later told by Adolpho Birch, the vice president of the NFL’s labor policy, to stop pardoning players.
The Pioneer Press listed the names of former and active players of the league who were named in the deposition of Dr Lombardo during the Starcaps hearing.
- San Francisco 49ers cornerback and 2004 Pro Bowler Nate Clements;
- New York Jets guard Damien Woody, also a former Pro Bowler;
- Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Vernon Carey;
- Seattle Seahawks offensive tackle Damion McIntosh, a free agent;
- defensive end Marquise Hill, played for the New England Patriots from 2004-06;
- wide receiver Jonathan Smith, played for Buffalo and New England;
- fullback Daimon Shelton, played for the Buffalo Bills in 2006;
- fullback Patrick Pass, played for the Patriots and New York Giants from 2000-07
Starcaps a Masking Agent for Steroids
Taking supplements are common in any sports. However, there are cases where some ingredients were not listed on the label just like the Starcaps supplement. It is a weight loss pill that contains garlic and papaya as active ingredients. But lab tests showed that it was tainted with a diuretic substance which is banned by the league. The diuretic bumetanide is primarily used to treat congestive heart failure and renal disease. The league considers it as a potential masking agent for steroids. The product was already recalled by its manufacturer at the end of 2008.
League Defended Anti-Doping Policy
Birch issued a statement regarding the disclosure of the names of players who were exonerated by the league. “In a case where a key issue was confidentiality, and where court orders were in place to protect players, it is extraordinary that someone would reveal the names of players who allegedly tested positive. We have no comment on these unfair accusations,” Birch told the Pioneer Press.
He also argued that their anti-doping policy was properly enforced. “Since the policy’s inception, the league and the union have agreed that use of a tainted supplement represents a violation and is grounds for discipline,” Birch said. “The policy makes clear that players are strictly responsible for what is in their bodies and the courts have repeatedly found that the policy was applied consistently and rejected Kevin and Pat Williamses’ efforts to avoid their suspension based on their claim that other players were treated differently in 2006.”