Athletes' careers depend on taking care of their bodies, so that they continue to perform well. Yet sometimes, professional players can get so confident in their own abilities and invincibility that they engage in reckless decisions to engage in substance abuse.
Other athletes are so pressured by the goal of pushing their body to its upper limits that they take steroids or human growth hormone (HGH) to artificially increase their muscle mass in the short term, but also putting their bodies at risk. In late September, the NFL (National Football League) and its Player's Association agreed to new drug policies, in an effort to deal with the realities of substance abuse among football players, and more effectively protect players from addiction.
New testing and punishments for HGH
Both because they posit serious and often unknown health hazards, and because they create an unfair, unsportsmanlike advantage to a player in the short-term, the NFL, like most professional sports teams, has categorically banned all Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs), including HGH. However, the ban was, for the most part, without any real means of testing or enforcement.
In 2013, one player was quoted anonymously by football journalist Greg Rosenthal as saying that HGH was used by almost everyone "like clockwork." These new rules will change that.
HGH is now going to be tested, alongside other PEDs. Furthermore, the punishments for PED use are becoming stricter, with a four-game suspension for using any prohibited PED, and a six-game suspension for tapering or attempting to mask the results of a drug test. This new policy reflects a new level of discipline that will hopefully discourage steroid use among football players.
Changes with results to marijuana use
The amount of marijuana that shows up in a drug test before discipling actions are taken has increased from 15 ng/ml (nanograms per milliliter) to 35 ng/ml. Thus, a player may have higher amounts of marijuana in his system before suspension is considered.
At first glance it may appear that this reflects a softening of the rules and toleration for pot smoking among players, but this is not the case. Even without using the drug, a person who is in contact with other marijuana users can get small amounts of the drug in his or her system, breathing in the smoke secondhand.
Thus, some players have had dirty test results without actually being guilty of using the drug. As the potency of marijuana has increased significantly in the past few years, this example of false positives has become more frequent.
As a result, most jobs requiring a drug test have made allowances for this, increasing the threshold to be able to get a more accurate measure of who truly is using drugs, and who was simply in an unavoidable situation at the wrong time.
Although many pro football players have been in the news lately for illegal and violent behavior, the crime most of them are changed with is driving under the influence. According to a report that appeared in the New York Daily News on September 13, 2014, drunk driving accounted for 202 of the 713 arrests of NFL players since 2000, by far the most frequently committed crime.
Not only is driving while intoxicated extremely dangerous and life-threating to self and untold numbers of others on the road, but the frequency at which it occurs damages the NFL's reputation, and hurtful to fans who look up to these players as role models. In response to this epidemic, the NFL is getting tougher.
Previously, offenders were usually only fined and referred to substance abuse counseling. New rules call for an automatic two-game ban, with a minimum eight-game suspension for a second violation. These increase deterrents will hopefully encourage more responsible behavior from football players.