Public discussion of the NFL's drug policy is about as secretive and muddied as the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. Teams can't discuss it, the league won't discuss it and violations are only learned about after the fact.
So it has been with Randy Moss and his recent arrest in which marijuana was found in his car. While Moss had steadfastly maintained that he was not the owner of the pot found in his Lexus, the more attention his case has received, the more lips have become looser.
The latest charge to surface from the shadows of the highly guarded NFL drug policy is that Moss is already in Phase II of the league's testing program and has played the first four games of the season for free -- surrending four game checks -- approximately $120,000 -- in fines for being in the second stage of the league's drug and alcohol program.
The troubling part of all of this is that Moss was fined before the start of the 2002 season, which means that if he in fact tested positive for marijuana in the league-mandated drug test, he would not be subject to a fine, he would face an automatic four-game suspension.
Under league rules, the first violation of the league's drug-testing policy goes unpunished -- at least in the monetary sense. A first violation puts a player in the system. A second violation results in a fine --typically that of four game checks. A third violation brings with it a four-game suspension. A fourth violation warrants a one-year suspension.
VU has been told that Moss was in the NFL's program to start with because of a prior history of marijuana use when in college. His first positive test as an NFL player pushed him into Phase II of the league's drug policy.
For a team struggling to salavage a season that has begun with four straight losses, the prospect of potentially losing a star player for four games is troubling indeed. With as much as the Vikings have invested in Moss, seeing the chance of a positive test taking him away for a month is not what the team needs to hear.
Moss can be tested as many as 12 times a month now that he is in the second phase of the program and, given Moss' history with the league and the fines he has been assessed, VU has been told there is reason to believe that he will be tested -- regular season and off-season -- more than many players would be because of his history of running afowl of league protocol.
* In other NFL drug policy chatter, VU was told Sunday by a source with the Saints that former Viking Dale Carter has been denied reinstatement at this time by the NFL after yet another failed test. Carter, who had to sit out more than a year in 2000-01 for a failed drug test, was suspended again for testing positive for alcohol after signing a contract with the Saints. At his stage of the league's drug policy, even drinking, as he described, "just a few beers" after signing the deal was enough to bring about another suspension. Carter is eligible to apply for reinstatement as early as today, but the league has up to 60 days to respond to the request and, even then, could deny it again. Carter signed a seven-year, $30 million deal with the Saints in the off-season, but much of the money was backloaded and the Saints put in safeguards to protect it against a potential drug-related suspension.
* Minnesota Wild hockey owner Bob Naegle Jr. has denied that he or his ownership group has made an offer on the Vikings. The speculation about his interest in the purchase of the team sprouted after VU reported last Friday that Red McCombs and Glen Taylor have agreed on a purchase of the Vikings.
Moss In Phase II of Drug Program
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