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Williams Wall suspension: When, not if

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

For the moment, let's give the benefit of the doubt to Minnesota defensive tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams, along with any other NFL player who reportedly has tested positive for a banned substance during this most recent news cycle.

Although neither Williams has explained his situation publicly, let's assume for a minute that neither was aware that a weight-loss supplement he took contained Bumetanide, a chemical that could be used to mask the appearance of other banned substances.

While they might have a strong legal case against the maker of the supplement, it's hard to fathom how any of these players will avoid an NFL suspension by arguing this point to the league. The NFL's policy on anabolic steroids and related substances explicitly disqualifies this argument. Here is the relevant excerpt of the policy:

Players are responsible for what is in their bodies, and a positive test result will not be excused because a player was unaware that he was taking a Prohibited Substance.

The policy goes on to provide contact information for Dr. John Lombardo, the league's independent administrator for the plan, as well as a hotline to call if there are questions about a product's ingredients. (Minnesota receiver Bernard Berrian said this week he has had trouble getting through on this hotline.)

The league even disregards advice given by members of an individual team's medical staff. In bold letters, the policy states: "Having your Club's medical or training staff approve a supplement will not excuse a positive test result."

There doesn't seem to be much leeway in a document that was collectively bargained by the NFL and the NFL Players Association. Short of a legal ruling against the policy itself, the affected players are all bound to the required discipline. Excusing any player for ignorance would directly disregard the policy and open a whole new set of precedents for future positive tests.

So while there could be logistical and other delays in finalizing this situation, it's a pretty good bet that the Vikings temporarily lose the services of both players. It seems a matter of when, not if.