In an apparent victory for the NFL, a state appeals judge in Minnesota upheld a lower court ruling that allowed the league to suspend two players on the Vikings who were found to have taken StarCaps, a supplement that included a banned substance.
The players, Kevin Williams and Pat Williams, may now be forced to serve the four-game suspensions originally handed down by the league.
The league suspended the Vikings players, as well as Will Smith of the New Orleans Saints, after they failed a drug test in 2008. The StarCaps weight-loss supplement included bumetanide, a diuretic that can mask steroids.
The players admitted taking the supplement, but the two Vikings fought their suspensions, arguing in court that as employees of a company based in Minnesota, they were governed by the state’s drug-testing rules, not those of the league.
As the case worked its way through the courts — and hearings were held in Washington — the players were allowed to continue playing. However, on Tuesday, Appellate Judge Francis Connolly said that the NFL did not violate state law because Minnesota’s workplace drug-testing policy did not cover bumetanide.
One of the players, Pat Williams, told the Pioneer Press in Minneapolis that he would not appeal the decision to the state’s Supreme Court, adding that he had spent close to US$1 million in legal fees.
The decision makes it less likely that other players will make similar legal challenges if they are suspended by the league for taking banned substances. It also raises the likelihood that the league will enforce its original suspensions next season.
“We are pleased that the Minnesota Court of Appeals, like all other federal and state courts to hear the matter, has unanimously upheld the structure and operation of the NFL’s collectively bargained Policy on Anabolic Steroids and Related Substances,” Greg Aiello, a league spokesman, said in a statement. “Today’s opinion confirms that the testing program did not violate Minnesota state law and vindicates the policy and procedures of the program. We are in the process of reviewing the decision and determining our next steps.”