The NFL has added amphetamines to the list of performance-enhancing drugs banned by its policy against steroids and related substances and, beginning with the 2007 season, will toughen sanctions against players who test positive for amphetamines and methamphetamines.
In the past, amphetamines had been a part of the league's substance-abuse policy, and a player would have been tested for them only if he were in the program and subject to random screenings.
"Frankly, we didn't see amphetamines and methamphetamines as a big issue, as a big problem in the league," NFL executive vice president of labor relations Harold Henderson told the San Diego Union-Tribune after apprising players at the league's annual rookie symposium of the change. "But now we've come to learn that at least in other sports, and maybe in our sport, too, people believe it is a performance-enhancer. So it was more the health concern that really drove us to reach an agreement with the union and to make a change."
Adding amphetamines to the steroid policy, a move NFL vice president of public relations Greg Aiello said was negotiated with the NFL Players Association as part of the recent extension to the collective bargaining agreement, allows for more testing. It also brings amphetamines into the group of banned substances for which NFL players will earn stiffer sanctions if they test positive.
Because amphetamines were solely under the purview of the substance-abuse policy in the past, a player would not have been suspended until a third positive test. Beginning with the 2007 season, following a "transitional" year in 2006, a first-time offender for amphetamines will be suspended four games, the same sanction levied for any positive test under the steroids and related substances policy.
And starting in 2007, a player who tests positive a second time for any banned substance will be suspended for eight games. That is an increase from the six-game suspension a second-time offender faced under the previous terms of the policy. As was already the case, a third positive test results in a one-year suspension.
Even with the "transitional" year, if a player tests positive for amphetamines in 2006, he will be subject to random tests. A second positive test in 2006 would result in a four-game suspension.
The addition of amphetamines and methamphetamines to the NFL steroids and related substances policy continues the expansion of the program and the league's efforts to address performance-enhancing drugs. In 2001, the NFL added ephedrine to the program and, in subsequent years banned THG and altered its threshold levels in testosterone testing.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.